by Ray Tetz
 
 
This morning I expressed a concern to my wife that we had taught our children incorrectly when it came to how to spread butter or mayonnaise on bread.
 
We always start in the middle and work to the edges, but if we would start at the edges and work towards the middle, then the crusts would be well-buttered and would be more likely to be eaten along with the rest of the slice of bread.
 
To this rather insightful observation she replied that she didn’t teach our kids anything at all about spreading butter on their bread, and that I know good and well that she doesn’t like mayo.
 
I was shocked by the former and admit to the latter. I’ve given up on trying to get her to try mayonnaise on her bread, but I feel a certain obligation to remediate the lost lesson in spreading the butter. Or jam. Or Nutella. Well, maybe not Nutella. If you were to accidentally spread it too far and drop some of it onto the plate, even with a good careful scrape you might lose some of it, and any parent who imparts a lesson to his children that puts the chocolate spread at risk is just not what you hope and expect when you are a kid and there is a limited amount of Nutella to start with.
 
It’s true that we probably didn’t teach our kids much about buttering their bread. The defined rectangle of a slice of bread, combined with soft butter and the dull blade of a butter knife, seemed to be a reasonably safe way for them to explore something about the intersection of food and physics—so they pretty much put whatever they wanted on their bread, however they wanted. (No licking the blade, however.)
 
And frankly, I do not recall that even one of the hundreds of bedtime sessions spent reading books aloud or the diverse and interesting conversations around the kitchen table or in the van on the way to and from school were about buttering your bread.
 
Here’s what I do remember: we talked about kindness. We talked about sharing. We talked about compassion. It seemed like every time we interacted with another family, there were questions asked and young opinions expressed. It wasn’t too long before the ideas that were being taught about fairness and equality were being tested in real life. The stories learned at church (and then school) found their counterpart in life. And somehow, even without a lesson in buttering, they managed to grow up knowing how to do it. More or less.
 
So I take it all back. You can spread the butter however you want as long as you commit yourself to being an honest person. I do think you should give the mayo a chance, but that one is a personal preference; being kind is nonnegotiable. And if you are having the chocolate spread, always be ready to share it.
 
Ray Tetz is the director of communication and community engagement for the Pacific Union Conference.