My Encounter with Cookies and Kinship at CHP
Every day, hundreds of USC faculty, staff, OT students, PT students, and Pharmacy students, wander the halls, offices, and patios of the Center for the Health Professions Building (CHP). It’s the hub where we, as OT students, spend most of our time in the program. It houses our classrooms, labs, auditoriums, outdoor patios, and other spaces that facilitate our learning.
We have one particular room at CHP that most students unofficially call “the microwave room.” Between 12-12:20p, you will find 8 or so microwaves buzzing as hungry OT and PT students nuke their lunches. There are also communal tables in this room where you could eat your lunch, study, or catch up with friends. This is where I had a beautiful unexpected encounter with Sharon*.
I was about to take a bite of my green beans and meatless ground beef stir fry (don’t be hatin’ on my veg game) leftovers when I hear a voice: “That smells AMAZING!” I look over and I see a sweet woman with the gentlest smile munching on her apple. I thank her and humbly tell her that it tastes as good as it smells and we get to talking. I find out she works in a research office on the 2nd floor of the building. Somehow, we arrive on the topic of cookies and she asks me if I like them.
She asks me what kind.
She asks me if I like nuts.
She says I remind her of her son who likes his cookies just the way I do and asks if I’ll be on campus on Friday.
Without hesitation, she says she’s going to bake me a batch and bring them on Friday. My eyes get huge and my heart warm. I tell her that I have a big batch of my green beans and meatless ground beef dish and that if she’s open to it, I’ll bring her a lil lunch in exchange. She says that would be amazing.
Friday rolls around and I walk up to her office in CHP. She’s delighted to see me and we do our lil exchange. The cookies look perfect in every way - moist, chewy, made with love. I ask her if I can taste one now and she says of course! I take a bite and immediate let out a “Hoooooly that’s good.” She smiles sweetly at me and says, “I like you. How do I keep you in my pocket all day?”
This beautiful encounter left me with such gratitude and joy. Knowing that humans like Sharon exist who choose to connect with others not just out of politeness but out of genuine curiosity and kinship inspires me to implement these qualities in my practice as an OT.
Sharon’s kindness reminds me of a book I read over the winter break called “Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship” by Gregory Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program in the world. He speaks about our deep interconnectedness as humans despite our varying backgrounds, experiences, ethnicities, etc and that once we realize that we share in kinship with strangers and loved ones alike, we can start to truly love. Here is a powerful interview with Greg Boyle if you are interested in learning more:
As I left Sharon’s office, I told her I’d be back to return her tupperware.
In true Sharon fashion with her perpetually giving heart, she yelled back at me, “Not unless you want it refilled!”
*All names mentioned in this blogpost are pseudonyms.