Friendship comes through the offering. I’ve made an effort to live that ideal through the relationships I share with others, but it’s easy to get caught up in personal day-to-day dramas and lose sight of the wonder and abundance all around me. About a month ago, I started listening to WBUR’s “Kind World” after hearing from a friend that the stories showcased on the podcast spoke, without pretense, about thoughtful acts of kindness that changed others’ lives. I needed that reminder.
I’ve worked in politics for almost five years now, and too often the “spin” that people thrive on in this profession overlooks the good intentions that first compelled them into public service. I’ve never had much use for pretense and how it’s used as a type of currency to buy power. As soon as I catch a whiff of political bravado, my hackles go up, as if to warn my smooth-talking assailant: I do not want what you’re selling. Do you want what you’re selling? Come on, we both know you are better than this.
Even if you don’t work in a political field, all you have to do is check social media or turn on your television, and you’ll be inundated with news programs that package bite-sized headlines about the damaging acts people are willing to do to others out of fear or for personal gain. Pardon my salty language, but if the news is any indication of what folks want to believe about the world, we’re living in a veritable shit show, with a cast of negative, petty, and selfish characters only out to get what’s theirs.
However, if we make time to occasionally tune out of the cartoonish 24-7 news cycle, we can create some mental space that allows us to acknowledge that helping others inevitably improves our own lives because offering ourselves without expectation reminds us not only of others’ humanity but of the gift of humanity we possess. Every act of kindness we witness proclaims, “There is a love in all of us that is just itching to break free. Let that love loose in this world. You are someone’s gift of abundance.”
Whenever I’m feeling down about the state of the world now, I turn on “Kind World” for a quick reminder that deep and abiding love is expressed through every offer of kindness and that any of us at any time can be called forth to give of ourselves to someone in need. Again and again this podcast reveals that the greatest power any of us can possess is the power of loving another for who that person is and not for what he or she can give you.
As a working parent with little time to myself these days, “Kind World’s” short episodes (between 5 and 10 minutes) are the perfect length for lunch walks and commutes. If, like me, your current life situation warrants podcast listening in public settings, I recommend keeping a tissue or shirt sleeve handy because more than once a “Kind World” story has left me damp-eyed on the light rail ride home from work.
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to care for others has been through sharing food I’ve made. I’m not the best cook in the land, but cooking and baking help me slow down and think about the people in my life who, by their love, sustain me. Around the time I started listening to “Kind World,” I decided to try my hand at making homemade dinner rolls. I had no dinner party to host or holiday feast to prepare. I just felt like learning a new baking skill and sharing the spoils, if edible.
So I set to preparing the much-loved Food52’s Molasses Oatmeal Dinner Rolls that I’d been eying in a cookbook for some time. Turns out, making dinner rolls is not hard if you’re willing to give the dough the time it needs to rise. The result were fluffy and lightly sweetened rolls that were only made better with a generous pat of Irish salted butter. Cameron and I relished these rolls as most parents to a toddler would, taking turns eating a roll while the other redirected the pint-sized wonder away from climbing onto window sills and high shelves.
Molasses Oatmeal Dinner Rolls
Makes 12 rolls
– 2 tsp active dry yeast
– 1 TBS dark brown sugar
– 1/4 cup lukewarm water
– 3/4 cup milk
– 3/4 cup rolled oats
– 1/2 cup butter cut into cubes
– 2 TBS molasses
– 2 tsp salt
– 1 egg, lightly beaten
– 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour (unbleached all-purpose or bread flour)
– 3 TBS melted butter for brushing tops of rolls
1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar. Let stand until bubbly (about 5 to 10 minutes).
2. Place butter in a large mixing bowl. Scald milk, and add it to the butter, stirring until butter has melted. Then add brown sugar, rolled oats, molasses, and salt. Stir until combined, and let cool to lukewarm.
3. Once cooled, add egg to the butter mixture and stir well. Then stir in the yeast mixture to the butter/egg mixture. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of the flour. Stir in the remaining flour as needed until the dough loses its sheen. Let rest for 10 minutes.
4. Scrape the dough out of the mixing bowl and place in a greased bowl. Turn to coat and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of two hours. I let my dough rise in the fridge for 14 hours to allow time for flavor development. Either way, the dough doesn’t rise a lot.
5. Remove from fridge, and turn out the chilled dough on a floured work surface and knead lightly, about 30 seconds. Cut dough into 12 balls. Press each ball into a flat rectangle with your fingers, then roll up and tuck ends under. Place seam-side down in a well-buttered 9 inch round pan. Brush all over with ½ of melted butter and sprinkle with a little of the rolled oats. Let rise until doubled in size in a warm place, about two hours.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until rolls are nicely browned and sound hollow when you tap their tops. The internal temperature should be 190 degrees. Remove from the pans and brush generously with remaining melted butter. Let cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes. Serve warm with salted butter. I’m a fan of Irish and European butter and can vouch for Kerrygold Irish Butter as a homemade bread butter winner.