A Good Fortune – Without Opening the Cookie

Let me start out by saying that this post is not meant to be a discussion about the pros/cons of Panda Express. That said, we like it, and it is the closest fast food establishment to our house. (less than a mile)

We also like the fortune cookies, even though the fortunes are sometimes “iffy.”

Tuesday evening, we had a lot going on so we grabbed some quick Panda and brought it home. When we took it out of the bag, the food was there, as were napkins and soy sauce. We immediately spotted a problem:

There were only 2 fortune cookies. There were 4 of us.

We all immediately noticed and I took my position as lead griper. We got rich to it, with some of us taking of quickly in different directions to concerts, meetings, etc.

A couple of days later, I came home from work and walked into the kitchen and noticed that the two fortune cookies were sitting on the counter by the toaster.

“Hey? What’s the deal?” I asked my son. “Nobody ate the fortune cookies.”

My son replied, “There were only two.”

Just then my other son walked in and asked what we were talking about. I told him about the cookies. He replied, “There were only two. I wasn’t gonna be that guy that ate someone else’s cookie.”

That’s the end of the story. Not a lot to it, but that little story makes me happy.


Because within that story lies the flicker of something that any parent should be happy to see in their children. We raise our kids and hope that they are on the right track. We watch and take note of what they do, and don’t do, and see if they are figuring it out.

Two un-eaten fortune cookies show a a flicker of something very good.

The obvious thing is that the boys simply have good manners. I like that. I have sat at plenty of tables, and been an active participant, where a dinnertime resembles more a game of “Spoons,” than a meal. You grab first and fastest, and take what you can get with little regard for anyone else at the table.

I see the good manners in the people that hold the door for others – even at a convenience store. I must admit that in all my travels, I have not been to a place that rivals good old Gilbert, AZ when it comes to plain old good manners.

Good manners communicate something even more important: Respect. The way we feel about people shines through in the way we talk to people, and the way we treat them. But, sticking with the food theme, I’ll point out that I constantly see and hear people frustrated about how someone ate their leftovers without asking, or someone took their energy dink from the company fridge without permission.

What kind of people do that sort of thing? People with little respect for others. Especially within a family.

But, beyond good manners and respect, there is another more important quality – a Christlike quality: Selflessness.

The simple act of leaving behind a cookie communicates that we are thinking of others more than you are thinking of ourselves. I was proud of my boys for being selfless. Not because I was dying for a fortune cookie – I believe they are still sitting on the counter – but because being selflessness bodes well for their future.

I don’t want my boys to be those missionaries that eat their companion’s food without permission, or leave a mess everywhere they go. I want them to think of others – first. Same goes for college roommates, coworkers, and ultimately their spouses. I also want to be the kind of person who chooses last, or who goes without, so that someone else doesn’t have to. As my son said, “I don’t want to be that guy.”

A pair of fortune cookies, by themselves, are not really that important, but they are definitely symbolic of an attitude that we should all strive for. It is easy to see how a selfless character can be much more than an issue about cookies and kitchens. The most obvious benefit of that trait is in the building a happy marriage.

Marriage is full of challenges and obstacles, but if you can enter into that relationship with a sense of selflessness, you are already on the pathway to success.

“Because no matter how flat your relationship may be at the present, if you keep adding pebbles of kindness, compassion, listening, sacrifice, understanding, and selflessness, eventually a mighty pyramid will begin to grow.

If it appears to take forever, remember: happy marriages are meant to last forever! So “be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great [marriage]. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

As it applies to marriage, the benefit of selflessness applies to all personal relationships. The greatest example of selflessness we have is that of the Savior, buy word and action, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

If you want to dig deeper into this concept, you have to leave the positive trait of “selflessness” and learn from its polar opposite, “selfishness.”

In discussing the plague and the cause of broken homes and broken marriages, President Gordon B. Hinkley said, “There is no simple answer. I acknowledge that. But it appears to me that there are some obvious reasons that account for a very high percentage of these problems. I say this out of experience in dealing with such tragedies. I find selfishness to be the root cause of most of it.” (link)

He follows with a thought that should probably be etched on the inside of all our wedding bands:

I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.

I promise that those words right there are the key to a happy marriage.

President Hinkley continued: “Selfishness so often is the basis of money problems, which are a very serious and real factor affecting the stability of family life. Selfishness is at the root of adultery, the breaking of solemn and sacred covenants to satisfy selfish lust. Selfishness is the antithesis of love. It is a cankering expression of greed. It destroys self-discipline. It obliterates loyalty. It tears up sacred covenants. It afflicts both men and women.” (link)

When I see someone doing something selfless for someone else – large or small – it bolsters my faith and helps me think better of the world. Whether it be an ignored fortune cookie, or a High School coach taking a bullet for his students, it is indicative of what kind of person someone is.

Signs of selflessness in my children give me hope that they “get it.” I watch as my married kids share and sacrifice for each other and it helps us, as parents, breath easier. Selflessness can build stronger relationships, whether between couples, families, friends, companions, coworkers, or  fellow church members. Selflessness even helps us know – and show – where we stand before God. “Not my will, but thy will be done.” (Matt. 26:42)

So the next time there is just one cookie, or only one piece of cake left – find a flicker of selflessness – and see who else might want it.

A simple idea that will bring you good fortune.

About the author


  1. I have noticed that sometimes people have good hearts, but they occasionally seem to run on knee-jerk reactions from their childhood. I have seen otherwise great people, who are kind and considerate, get into a situation where they instinctively grab for what they can get. I liken it to those who were raised in a large family where, as you mentioned, you take what you can or you go hungry.

    It takes real self awareness for them to learn to recognize that in these isolated situations they are acting in a selfish manner. I don’t think they even realize they are being that way. And I don’t think it is a hallmark of their personality. Each of us needs to evaluate our behavior from time to time to think through why we do the things we do. This is especially true if we do things that cause grief to others.

    Thanks for a great article.

  2. This is so insightful! This is being shared with all my children and their families!

  3. When I work a day shift, I always prepare my EC’s lunch, because I don’t have to be to work till 1/2 hour after she does. When I work a night shift, I don’t get home till after she leaves in the morning. She and I love the orange “cream-cicle” cakes from little debbies.
    There has been one cake left in the pantry for over a week. (I was off last week, so I brought lunch to her and we ate together all week.) This morning, I got her lunch ready and placed it on the table with her bag. I included that last orange cake. As she was picking her things up, she moved the cake over to my “pile”
    Then she said that she had been saving it for me.
    I had to chuckle, because we both had been saving it for the other one. (I slipped it into her bag when she kissed me goodbye)

  4. I taught a Primary class of the most awesome kids. One of “my” boys is now 14 and has been involved in a school activity to take a major trip to Ecuador (from Alaska!). They have held fund raisers for over 18 months. He just broke his leg and even though he could still go, he refused because he might “hold others up” or keep one of the chaperones from enjoying the trip while they helped him. He is the most unselfish little guy I’ve met in a long time. It makes my heart happy that I know someone like him. Our youth can be amazingly kind and selfless.

  5. This is great. Really, truly great. Thank you for reinforcing one small change I’ve recently made and helping me to see how it fits into the larger picture.

  6. I am constantly amazed at how you develop deep principles from simple things like a fortune cookie. Thank you, MM! I tell everyone about you so they too can benefit from your incredible insights. What a blessing you are to your readers. It’s fun to watch the Lord using you to bless the lives of others. Thank you!

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