It’s the first day of June, and I cannot help but look back to a day nearly a year ago … I woke up with a kaleidoscope of butterflies violently fluttering in my stomach. A pinkish, early morning light filled my room as I blinked my eyes open and my senses were coming to. It was graduation day, and I was due to give the commencement speech.
I was so incredibly honored to be the student speaker for my graduation, and I was very grateful to be given a moment to tell my classmates something I felt was really important.
Initially I wanted it to be a surprise for everyone, but at the last minute, I couldn’t keep it bottled in anymore. I was a shaken soda can ready to burst, and I really just wanted another person’s opinion. Karl, my sagacious and honest manfriend, was the obvious choice. The day before graduation, I recited my speech for him during our two hour car ride up to Davis. I had no idea it would lead me to ruminate over all the little details, and I quickly grew panicked as I making changes, albeit small, to my once completed speech at the very last minute. Just before midnight, I put my laptop away for the night just after I forced myself to finalize my speech. My cortisol levels slowly settled down, allowing me to drift off to a restless sleep.
I went through my typical morning routine with a bit of a nervous tremble. I put on the pink dress with a delicate lace overlay I specifically bought for the occasion and quickly ran a brush through my hair several times. Although I was going to be standing up in front of hundreds of people, my appearance was not a huge concern of mine. I left my dorm building as soon as I deemed myself presentable, and I walked with Karl’s hand in mine to the crowding pavilion.
When we made it to the back entrance, Karl kissed me goodbye (and gently unclenched my tightest grip around his arm), and I was escorted to “stage party” room. There I found prestigious faculty members, deans, and a lovely continental breakfast spread, which I would have gone straight for if my stomach wasn’t completely twisted in sailor knots. I stood in the corner and smiled back at friendly faces. There was mild chaos in the room. Faculty members putting on their striped-sleeved robes. Graduation helpers running around handing bobby pins to the ladies. And of course, someone was looking for their missing velvet doctoral tam.
It seemed like every other person asked me if I was the student speaker. I wondered what gave it away. Perhaps it was my ghost white face or my obvious nervous demeanor. Professors came up to talk to me while we waited in the stage party room, and they were so genuinely kind and curious about my plans after graduation. Needless to say, I was not short on words of encouragement or congratulations.
Just as everyone was starting to line up, I was introduced to my walking partner, a Physics and Computer Science student who was receiving an award on stage. He was a wonderful guy, whose cheery demeanor kept me at ease. During the entire (long) walk to the stage, we became fast friends and together we laughed at all the goofy mortarboards – a huge distraction from my nerves.
When we got to the end of the aisle, my walking partner and I parted ways, as I had to go right to get on stage. I was seated next to a couple of deans from my college, and they made my time on stage so much fun. They whispered silly things to me and filled me in on the bets they placed and games they played at every graduation. We each nominated our favorite decorated mortarboard (my favorite was the the paper mache volcano, the work of a Geology student). We raced to point out the girl with the tallest high heels. We rated the energetic animations students performed after receiving their diploma on stage (I gave the guy who played the air guitar a 9/10).
Before I knew it, Dean Mangun was introducing me for my speech. I walked up to the podium, praying to all the gods not to let me trip and fall. What happened next was quite amazing for me. When I made it to the podium, my nerves completely vanished. The butterflies were no where to be found, and the knots magically untangled themselves. I went from feeling like my chest lacked sufficient space for air to feeling completely capable of taming my nerves.
And then I gave my speech.
I have seen folks do malicious things to each other, and I’d be lying if I said I never hurt someone myself. Based on what I’ve seen and my own experience, going out of your way to be mean to others takes so much more energy than the alternative, and it leaves you feeling like utter … you know. I hope we can all agree that there are enough terrible things in the world, and like the littering problem, we can help by simply not contributing to it.
On the flip side, I have witnessed so many beautiful moments of genuine kindness. Like the ability to breath in air, we all have it in ourselves to be kind. Let’s all be even more kinder. Imagine if everyone on this planet put a nickel into a pot. A nickel is not much, but that pot would amount to be a grand sum. What if instead of a nickel, we contributed a small act of kindness? I think we would all be better off.
Finally, this recipe is a reminder that no matter how big or small, any sort of goodness, whether it be a friendly smile or tiny lamb burgers, can go a long way.
- 6 slider buns or dinner rolls
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1½ cups (175 grams) red onions, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tablespoon (1.5 grams) fresh dill, chopped
- ½ tablespoon (1.5 grams) fresh mint, coarsely chopped
- ½ tablespoon (1.5 grams) fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sherry wine
- 1½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 3-4 drops hot sauce
- In a medium-sized skillet, heat up 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Cook the red onions and garlic for 7-8 minutes, until the onions are soft. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl, and cool at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and cooled onion mixture. Mix with a spoon or your hands until incorporated. Shape into 6 patties (each weighing about 90 grams each).
- In a clean medium-sized skillet, heat up 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Cook the patties on each side for 3-4 minutes (for medium-rare to medium). Transfer to a plate.
- In a small skillet or sauce pan, cook the butter over medium heat, swirling it around occasionally, until it is a deep brown (but not burnt), about 3-4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl, then whisk in the remaining ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Split the buns in half, and place them on a baking sheet, cut side up. Brush the tops of bun with the melted butter. Toast in the oven for 5 minutes, until warm and golden brown.
- Place the patty on the bottom bun, then top with 3-4 spinach leaves. Spread the ketchup over the top bun, and place it over the burger. Serve warm.