A couple weeks ago I got a late-evening text from a woman in my ward.
“Thank you for volunteering to bring a dessert for the ward bake sale,” it read. “Please drop off your item(s) by 5 p.m. tomorrow.”
I was perplexed. I knew the youth in my ward were collecting donations for a Christmas service project, but I could not remember agreeing to help with the bake sale.
“Hi,” I texted back to Christy. “I don’t think I signed up for the bake sale.” In fact, as I thought about it, I distinctly remembered passing that sign-up right along to the next woman when it came by in Relief Society, knowing how chronically overbooked my family is.
“We have plenty of desserts coming, so no stress, but. . . .” she replied.
The next message was a photo from Christy, showing the sign-up sheet with “Wrights” and my phone number clearly written in my darling husband’s handwriting.
Christy and I had a laugh about over-generous spouses. I agreed to bring something simple, and made a note to remind my husband of our pact not to volunteer each other for things, unless he wanted to be surprised with obligations to help neighbors move their pianos.
The next day I considered buying a package of Oreos, but supporting the youth’s service project was important, so I instead haphazardly whipped up a batch of ordinary chocolate chip cookies.
When they came out of the oven, their appearance was a few notches below “ordinary.” They were thin and flat and obviously could have used another half-cup of flour. They were cookie puddles. Definitely not my best work.
But time was short. I scraped them onto a couple of paper plates and took them to the church.
I felt sorry for my cookies, sitting there amongst other people’s beautiful peach pies and ornate cupcakes. Even worse, there was another batch of chocolate chip cookies on the bake sale table, made by my friend Mary. Mary is so beautiful and talented she would be easy to resent except she is also so kind and genuine everyone loves her. Her cookies were round and thick and exactly symmetrical. Just looking at them I could tell they were slightly crisp on the edges but tender in the middle. Perfectly perfect cookies, looking positively elegant next to my cow pie-shaped cookie puddles.
I stood there thinking about how the cookies were a metaphor for how I feel standing next to Mary, when Mary herself came up next to me.
“Your cookies look great,” I told her, feeling awkward. “I was going to make chocolate chip cookies, too, but instead I made Humble Cookies.”
“Humble Cookies?” she asked.
“Yes, you know, like how the Lord told Samuel not to look on outward appearance, but to look on the heart?” I said. “Same with these cookies. You can’t judge them by their countenance. They’re too humble-looking. You have to just eat them to know they’re good.”
Mary gushed over my genius at incorporating scripture study with baking. I slid away to eat the spaghetti dinner with my kids.
When the auction time came, I was shocked that multiple people bid on my Humble Cookies.
The winner? Mary. She raised her hand again and again to keep bidding on my apologetic cookies when she brought a tray of magnificent ones.
The lesson? Take your pick. The Lord really does look on the heart, and both mine and Mary’s were in the right place, looking to help however we could. Meanwhile, He magnifies our efforts. My cookies were not fancy, but they were what I had, the widow’s mite of church bake sales. Through the generosity of my neighbors, He turned them into a decent donation towards the Christmas service project.
Like all of our best efforts—even small best efforts—they were enough.