Sometimes the most important lessons of our lives can evolve out of the simplest actions, moments, or events. When it comes to learning love and kindness, can it really be represented in something as simple as a tomato? In my life, the contentious tomato has become a symbol of the purity of love. Though it may sound strange at first, every time I slice a tomato, I think of my dad, I think of love, and I think of the joy in caring for others. I have at least a dozen memories scattered throughout my youth of my father preparing sandwiches for himself and my mom. Each memory is focused acutely on the visual of my dad slicing through a ripe, red tomato — carefully lifting the slice upon the knife to lay carefully atop the sandwich. Then I hear his words, “A good tomato tastes like sunshine,” and feel warmth surround me, and taste the sunshine.
I know this feeling of warmth is really about the love I felt in his presence and the beauty of watching him in this simple act of food preparation that was always a lesson in caring. Because, you see, my dad never prepared a sandwich for himself without offering one to my mother. “Kath, can I make you a sandwich?” he would say to my mom from the kitchen. I would watch him, taking such care to make it to her preference, using the best ingredients and cuts, sharing his sunshine with her. I often watched my dad care for my mom and learned from him the beauty in caring for another selflessly, patiently, without second thought or obligation. I remember him caring for me in this way, too. When I was a child, I would wake up early to find only him awake and he would take me to the kitchen, sit me on the counter, and go through my breakfast choices before making my choice for me. I learned so much about love in those precious mornings alone together. I knew he never resented serving me or my mom in this way. It wasn’t really about service at all. It was his way of expressing his love through care and maintenance. I learned from him the rewards of caring for others in this way, performing acts of kindness and care for others simply for the sake of it, that the love and connection is the reward.