A pastry shop owner refuses to sell a cake to a little girl who doesn’t have enough money and later discovers it is for her dying mother’s birthday.
Sal Garfield was having a bad day. He’d been up since 3:00 am baking cakes and pastries, and now, his employee who was supposed to take over the shop for the afternoon had just called in sick.
Sal was an artist. No one could make confections like him, but he wasn’t a people person, not at all. He dealt with several obnoxious customers that morning, so when Janie Metcalf walked in, he was ready to explode.
Jamie was seven years old, slim and dainty, with long blond hair and big brown eyes. She approached Sal’s display case and placed her tiny hands against the glass as she looked at the delicious pastries and cakes.
“Hey, kid!” Sal growled. “Don’t put your hands on the glass! I just cleaned it!”
Life is about more than money, it’s about having a meaningful impact on others.
Janie jumped back and quickly tucked her hands behind her back. “I’m sorry!” she said. “Everything looks so delicious! My mom says you make the best red velvet cake in the world.”
Sal was flattered. “She may be right about that,” he said. “I won a prize with that cake.”
“I wanted to buy a cake,” Janie said and stuck out her hand. There was a little pile of coins on her palm that didn’t come to more than a few dollars.
“Where did you get that, kid?” Sal asked. “Did you bust open your piggy bank?”
“Yes,” Janie said shyly. “I did. I want to buy a cake, a big red velvet cake.”
“A red velvet cake?” asked Sal. “I hope you have more than those three or four dollars, kid! That cake costs $70!”
“Seventy dollars?” asked Janie. “But… I don’t have any more money…Could I buy just a slice?”
“Kid,” Sal sneered. “You can’t even afford a slice!”
Janie was almost in tears. “Please. What about that cupcake?” she pointed at a delicious-looking frosted cupcake. “How much does it cost?”
“That is a $6 cupcake, kid,” Sal said. “Honestly, you can’t afford a cracker in my shop!”
Janie started crying. “Please, mister,” she whispered. “You don’t understand…”
That was when Sal lost his patience. “Get out!” he shouted. “Go try your whiles somewhere else!”
Janie turned away and ran out of the door. Sal watched as she sat on the curb outside the store and cried desperately. A few minutes later, an elderly lady walked past, and she stopped.
Sal heard her ask the child, “Sweetie, are you OK?”
Janie cried, “I wanted to buy my mom a cake? But the man wouldn’t sell me one.”
“Well,” the lady exclaimed. “Is that what you’re crying about? Having cake?”
“It’s not for me,” Janie explained. “It’s for my mom. It’s her birthday, and she’s in the hospital. This is her favorite pastry shop, and she loves the red velvet cake.”
“Oh, dear!” the lady said. “Poor lady! What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s got cancer,” Janie said. “Dad said… she’s not going to come home. That’s why I want to get her the cake.”
“I’m so sorry!” the lady said. “Maybe…”
But Sal had heard enough. He ran to the door and cried, “Little girl, come back!”
Janie looked up at him, her face streaked with tears. “Me?” she asked.
“Yes,” Sal said in his gentlest voice. “Please, come back.”
The old lady helped Janie get up and walk into the pastry shop again. “I didn’t take anything…” she said.
“I know,” Sal said gently. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you before. I heard what you said to that lady. It’s your mom’s birthday?
“Yes,” Janie said. “Yes, it is. I know I don’t have enough money…”
“It’s OK,” Sal said, ashamed. “I have this extra cake. So if you could take it, it would be a big help!”
“You do?” whispered Janie. “Really?”
“Yes, really,” Sal said. “And as it happens, it’s one of my special red velvet cakes with the cream cheese and white chocolate topping…”
Janie’s face lit up with a wonderful smile. “That’s my mom’s favorite!” she gasped.
“Isabelle,” Janie said. “Her name is Isabelle. Isn’t that pretty?”
“It’s very pretty,” Sal said. “You wait here a second; I will be right back.”
Sal went back into the kitchen and carefully wrote on a delicious red velvet cake: “Happy Birthday, Isabelle!” Then he placed the cake in a big white satin box and added a pair of sparkly candles. He carried the big box back out into the store and gave it to Janie.
“Thank you!” whispered Janie with tears in her eyes. “It’s going to make her so happy!”
“No,” Sal said. “Thank YOU. I’d forgotten why I make these wonderful, delicious cakes. It’s to make special occasions even more special. I hope you and your mom enjoy my cake!”
Janie took Sal’s cake to her mom that afternoon, and they lit the sparkly candles. By that wonderful light, Janie could almost believe everything would somehow be alright.
What can we learn from this story?
Life is about more than money, it’s about having a meaningful impact on others. Sal realized that his cake would mean a lot more to Janie and her mother than any money he might make.
Make every moment you spend with your loved ones count — they may be the last. Janie wanted to make her mom’s last birthday special by taking her favorite cake.
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