Imagine you just sat down to eat. You were really in the mood for a nice fresh salad, maybe with a tangy vinaigrette dressing. You can almost taste each bite, as your mouth waters in anticipation. You are picturing the juicy red tomato, the crunch of the cucumber, and the zing of red pepper. You spread the napkin on your lap, and lift your fork, barely containing your joy, as someone sets in front of you… a banana split.

Now there is certainly nothing wrong with a good banana split. Lots of people enjoy them tremendously. The problem comes in if you are diabetic. Or lactose intolerant. Or on a diet. Or sick of overly processed food and were really looking forward to that salad.

This is the paradigm I have been challenged with lately as I am trying to be more grateful for the wonderful things in my life. Although intellectually I recognize that I am living a banana split life, emotionally I often feel like the diabetic in front of the ice cream sundae. I want to appreciate that there are still elements I could and rightly should enjoy- perhaps the smells or the vibrant colors of the dessert treat- but more often than I would like to I trip over the yearning for the vinaigrette.

When I was explaining this to someone today he told me a great joke that I wanted to share with all of you. It captures the essence of what I had been saying, while also reminding us that we all struggle and sometimes the best thing to do is not to take yourself too seriously.

Mary (the mother of Jesus) is in Heaven waiting to meet people as they enter the pearly gates. A woman dies and goes up to heaven, and upon seeing Mary just gushes with excitement. She can’t believe that after her whole life she is finally meeting the woman who had inspired her for all of her years on Earth. She goes on and on telling Mary that Mary was the most perfect uplifting heroic person this woman had ever conceived of, and she is so honored to be finally meeting her, and she is the luckiest woman ever, and she always wanted to be just like Mary. She is heaping praise on Mary, and telling her how wonderful her son is also, etc etc etc. But them she wants to know if she can ask Mary one question. It always bothered her that in every picture, statue, fresco, etc. Mary always looked sad, even when she was holding the newborn baby Jesus. The woman wants to know why. Mary answers her, “Well, the truth is, I really was hoping for a little girl…”