I remember the exact moment I began writing fortune cookies on a regular basis. The idea came to me while my wife, Kathleen, and I were enjoying an evening at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Miami.
At the end of the meal, the waitress put two fortune cookies on top of the bill. I ignored them, picking up the bill. I hadn’t opened a fortune cookie in years. Maybe I had read too many of them and the sayings seemed stale and worn-out. Still, I noticed that the other diners eagerly broke open their cookies and smiled while reading the messages. Apparently the need for hope is so powerful that mature adults will immediately believe what’s printed on a skinny little strip of paper
But I wasn’t charmed. To me they weren’t fortunes at all. They didn’t promise anything.
On the other hand, the need for hope had become an essential part of our lives. A few months before this pleasant evening, Kathleen was diagnosed with breast cancer. The day we were married, she still hadn’t recovered from her surgery. Now she was receiving daily radiation treatments.
Kathleen opened her cookie and read the fortune aloud: “A long journey begins with the first step.” We both chuckled, but I noticed that her eyes moistened. I knew what journey she was thinking about. She ate her cookie in silence, and then she asked me to open mine. I declined, but she said, “Oh, come on!”
“You open it,” I said, and so she did. “Love is the glue of life,” she said. We laughed again, and she ate my cookie.
This playful after-dinner interchange triggered the “what if” part of my brain. I saw the soulful way Kathleen pondered the fortune cookie sayings.
What if a fortune cookie really promised something?
What if the promise was the kind that could come true?
What if the promise could inspire hope?
Good fortune is possible, though in life it almost never comes without adversity and effort. We increase our chances of getting what we hope for when we do the hard things and work through challenges.
A few days later, I was sitting at my desk wondering if I could write a foretelling of the future that wasn’t silly. Perhaps a fortune would be believable if it were conditional. I wrote this:
“Quiet your mind, and you’ll hear the still small voice of wisdom.”
I showed it to Kathleen, and to my surprise, she liked it. It’s a very good thing to please your wife! Later, I tried another:
“Small step by small step, you’ll ascend the ladder.”
She liked that one, too. For some reason, writing these little fortunes made both of us feel better. They seemed to declare that if we would only exercise inner strength, good things would happen.
During that first year of our marriage, Kathleen and I did everything we could to save her life. It was a challenging time, and we needed all the inspiration we could get, especially the kind that was grounded in reality. So each day I wrote a fortune cookie statement and gave it to her. I wrote hundreds of them. I wrote them for both of us. They became an important part of what happened back then.
Now I share them with anyone and everyone who has to strive against adversity to meet the challenges of life – especially parents! One of my favorite ways to do this is on my Pinterest board, called “Fortune Cookies.”