The Parable of the Sheet Cake

It’s surprisingly difficult to give away half a sheet cake to strangers, piece by piece. I know this because I had a book signing last Sunday. My husband and I set up a table full of books — all 3 of my titles — and half a sheet cake. And not a single person came.

I’m not telling this story to make anyone feel bad for not showing up — it was an exceptionally gorgeous Sunday afternoon and most of my friends are clergy who have very busy Sundays. I get it.

So I walked around the coffeeshop — which is a ministry of a local church and volunteered to sponsor the book signing — and offered cake to the dozen or so people who happened to be drinking coffee. I said I was celebrating a book launch, and would they like a piece of cake? If they asked, I told them about the book. Usually, by the time I got out the title and subtitle — The #MeToo Reckoning: Facing the Church’s Complicity in Sexual Abuse and Misconduct — people knew whether or not they were interested.

One woman was very interested. She told me she was employed by a local church. I recognized the name — a large, conservative church. She said I should come to her church sometime and speak. I said, “Sure, take my card!” But she wasn’t ready to buy the book. I said, “No worries. Enjoy the cake.”

The pastor of the sponsoring church came by and we had a nice long chat. He didn’t have his wallet, so he couldn’t buy a book.

A man came by with his daughter, maybe 9 years old. She beelined for the cake. He read my book title and said something like, “Hoo boy, let’s face it, it’s not like I’m going to dive into that.” As his daughter stood beside him, chowing down on her cake, he told me he was on the staff of the church who sponsored the coffeeshop. He worked with youth. In fact, come to think of it, he knew a number of young women who “were dealing with that”. I said “Well, if you don’t have time to read my new book, you could always give them this memoir I wrote — it’s a good book to hand someone dealing with the aftermath of assault. Might be good for their parents, too.”

He shook his head. He said, “You know, I’m very busy. I coach my daughter’s [fill in the blank].”

Then two men came in the door — I would guess they were Pakistani or Indian. One was younger, and was immediately interested in the cake. The middle-aged man turned down the cake but looked at the book, so I gave him my spiel, which mentions the fact that my book includes a fair amount of work with scripture. He said, “Maybe my wife would be interested.” I said, “Does she happen to be a Christian?” He said, “No. But let me call her.” He walked away to order his coffee. I saw the two men sit down and enjoy their coffee, and chat.

To my surprise, he stopped by my table before he left. He said, “My wife isn’t interested in the book.”

I told him thanks for asking.

“But she said I should buy a copy because she wants to support you.”

I’m not kidding you, tears came to my eyes. They still do when I tell you this.

He said, “Which book do you think she’d like the best?” So I sold him a copy of “Ruined” and signed it. And I want to thank Geeta for her kindness to a stranger.

If this reminds you of a familiar parable, well, I’m not surprised.


2 responses to “The Parable of the Sheet Cake”

  1. Jo-Ann Tipple Avatar
    Jo-Ann Tipple

    I haven’t had a book signing where nobody came (need to write the book first. A book. Any book please) but I know the feeling of people not coming to something I worked hard on so I appreciate your story of sharing and of the lovely Geeta. Thank you for this and for your ministry.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jo-Ann. It’s good to know I’m not alone!

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