By Fr. Jonathan Filkins
The Picayune Item
“Honey,” the familiar voice on answering machine began, “I need you to do me a favor on your way home. I am so busy with the kids, I can’t get away. Will you to pick up a tomato for me, on your way home?” The dutiful husband had heard these messages before. It was really no big deal, as this was a familiar request and he loved his family very deeply.
Parking his car at the Picayune supermarket and hearing the familiar “beep” of the locking car doors, the man had a bit of extra spring in his step, as he anticipated the quick purchase and the rapid return to the chaos of an active family. Knowing the store well, he headed straight to the vegetable section, where he stopped short. In front of him were several varieties of tomatoes. Muttering to himself, “She never told me what kind to get. Was it for a salad, or for a recipe?” Deciding to find one that could fit both needs, his eyes surveyed the scene, where he discerned two potential candidates.
The first tomato was a wonder to behold. Its flawless red satin skin, cool and smooth to the touch, had the pert bit of exquisitely trimmed green vine firmly attached. It resembled the visage from an old masters painting. The second tomato was as repugnant as the first was beautiful; it was misshapen and lopsided, as the color ran from yellow to red. There was a discernible bruise near the portion where the vine used to connect and it seemed a bit dirty.
The great puzzlement was the cost of each. The pristine tomato was priced at $1.99 a pound, while the misshapen tomato was priced at a hefty, $2.59. The man, reflexively, looked around for an answer and sighted the greengrocer, watering the lettuce. “Can you tell me why there is such a difference in the prices of these tomatoes? It appears you have made an error here.”
“Sir, I shall be glad to clear things up,” said the cheerful woman, “The first tomato was grown in a hothouse, picked while it was still green, transported here from California, after being infused with a gas, to force it to turn red. This is the ‘Cardboard Tomato’ you hear so many complaints about, for that is exactly what it tastes like.
The second tomato was grown in a Mississippi field, carefully tended to by the farmer who knew that there would be the flaws of nature on the outside and he strove to make the inside the best tasting it could be. For this extra effort and quality, it is going to cost more. I hope my answer helps.”
Selecting the more expensive tomato, the husband returned to his home and was greeted by exuberant hugs from the kids and a slobbering kiss from the resident dog. Holding the tomato above the fray, he entered the kitchen and presented his beloved with the selection. “Dear,” she said in a smiling, chiding tone, “could you not have found an even uglier tomato? This is going to look a bit weird on the salad.
“My darling, I am going to tell you a story and a life lesson I was reminded of on the way home. I had forgotten, it is what is inside which really matters. With all of our Godly gifts, humankind can make all manner of things appear as something other than they really are. We often get attracted to the shiny and seemingly perfect exteriors, as we find the cost to our liking; seeming a bargain. Yet, the insides are tasteless and ill refined. I remember now the necessity of the need of never failing in our nurturing, to others. It is we who are the planters, the growers, and the nurturers. This is the extra cost of life and of living, for the better taste of life with Him.”