Feeling achy and slightly dizzy from a head cold, I was stunned last Thursday to learn that Elijah Cummings had died. As head of the Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives, clips of him at work were regularly featured on the morning and evening news. Elijah Cummings had been in my kitchen cross-examining Homeland Security officials while I cooked dinner. He had been in my bedroom speaking with Michael Cohen as I got ready for the day.
I have little if anything in common with Representative Cummings. He was a child of south, the son of sharecroppers. He was a brilliant student, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, who went on to become a lawyer and statesman. I have no ties to Baltimore or Maryland. I’m a child of the northeast, of suburbia, who now lives in rural New Hampshire. My dad was in sales; my mother a homemaker. There was never any question that I would go to college. My career path has had its twists and turns – teaching, business and writing. In college and beyond, I have always done well. However, I have rarely, if ever, been accused of brilliance.
Even with so little in common learning of his death took my breath away. He was so young. I come from long lines of octogenarians and nonagenarians so sixty-eight seems barely middle age. Today, life expectancy in the United States is 78.7. Why, he was still in his prime with more battles to wage and win. Along with relative youth, he was an inspiring orator. Through his words, he brought compassion and humanity to the Hill.
In particular, I was taken by two things he said in the last year or so. The first was to Michael Cohen. At the end of a hearing with Cohen, Representative Cummings passed along words that were both moving and empathetic. He challenged all of us, “When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?”
It is a fascinating question. One that doesn’t just apply to 2019 or to the current chaos in Washington. Perhaps, when that day comes, when we are dancing with the angels, we should all ask ourselves, “What did I do, to make the world a better place.”
I’m sure that each and every one of us has a laundry list of good deeds. For a few of us, not me, some of those deeds are huge – saving a life, rescuing a damsel in distress or puppy from a storm drain. For most of us, our good deeds are quite small. Perhaps you made someone smile today or picked up trash along the road. Maybe you spent the afternoon baking brownies with or for a loved one. No matter how small, never, ever think of these deeds as inconsequential.
The second quote, this one I’ve heard more than once. It was a comment made anywhere and anytime that lawmakers seemed to have forgotten their humanity. That’s when Representative Cummings would assert, “We are better than that.” There are variations on this theme, including “We can do better.”
We all have our evil twins. Most of us do our best to keep that part of ourselves hidden. If, or perhaps I should say when – When you feel yourself slipping into that mean persona, gently pull yourself back and remember; I am better than this. It’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of negativity, even cruelty. Don’t; instead, always remember – you are better than that.
Rest in peace Elijah Cummings. Thank you for helping us find our better selves and bon appétit!
I baked these brownies for my niece and her boyfriend a week or two ago. We drank tea, ate brownies and read old love letters. Letters that my grandfather had written to my grandmother from France during World War I. All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon and, once again, proved an event doesn’t have to be big to be special. Enjoy!
Makes 24 brownies
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 12 ounces semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.
Put the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
With an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter, butter and sugar on medium-high speed until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.
Reduce the mixer speed to low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake the brownies at 350 degrees until the edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, about 20 minutes.
Cool in the pan, cut and serve.
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- Two Years Ago – Apple Oatmeal Cookies
- Three Years Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato & White Bean Hummus
- Four Years Ago – Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares
- Five Years Ago – Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
- Six Years Ago Ago – Pumpkin Spice Cookies
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- Nine Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
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- Eleven Years Ago – Mexican Chicken Soup
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
What are your thoughts and memories of Elijah Cummings? Is anything holding you back? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019