As a school administrator I was always looking for ways to recognize accomplishment. It was relatively easy in a school of 340 students but it became somewhat more difficult in a school of 3,200. Over the years, I had experience in both settings and everything in-between.
Of course, there was always place for formal recognition of the people who made you look good—such things as public praise in various and sundry meetings and conferences, certificates of appreciation, plaques, trophies and other mementos. But most often I just needed something that would quietly let a person know that he or she was appreciated for some little act of kindness, for going above and beyond the call of duty in service to a student, a colleague or a parent, or sometimes an employee might just be in need of a little boost to his or her morale. Whatever the case, I needed something that would motivate but that was quick and easy to administer; hence, the Hostess Twinkie.
Now, a Twinkie, in and of itself, is not really all that much to write home about. It is loaded with an abundance of empty calories. And yet, it comes bundled up in a soft coating of angel food cake filled with a squirt of a delectable, velvety, vanilla-cream filling. I have always liked them and remember when you could buy a set of two for fourteen cents.
At any rate, I got into the habit of placing a Twinkie in the mailbox or on the desk of an employee to whom I wished to give a pat on the back. When they got one in that manner, they knew from whence it came and most often they knew what they had done to deserve it. Nothing more had to be said. Some quickly consumed the little tidbits in the privacy of their offices or classrooms. Others showed them off to colleagues in order to brag about having received one from “the boss.” Others simply hoarded them away so they would have something to smile at each time they encountered one in a drawer or closet.
Beginning with the first Sunday of this year, the course of study for my Sunday school class is the New Testament. I wondered how I might motivate each student to read the entire New Testament from cover to cover before the end of the year. As I pondered alternatives, the old Twinkie idea came to mind. I decided to see if that small but delightful little token of appreciation could be turned into a motivator of adults (about 50 of them). I was not disappointed.—at least not yet.
I wrote “Twinkie” on the blackboard but did not elaborate until near the end of the first class. When I finally relented to their queries, I explained that each of them who read the entire New Testament before the end of the year would receive a Twinkie from the teacher. Much to my delight, they seemed to relish the idea. (One student looked at her neighbor and asked, “What’s a Twinkie?”)
Of course, the real reward for reading and searching the scriptures is to be found in the act itself—it is its own reward. To those who know their value and the sheer joy, knowledge and understanding that derive from the reading of them, no outside motivator is needed—not a Twinkie, not a certificate, not a trophy.
And yet sometimes we need a reminder in order to stay on target and it might be a tool, such as the lowly Twinkie, that keeps us on track and provides the motivation needed to experience the real joys of life.