Billy John Barker had come to celebrate his 18th birthday with Texas Buddha. TB asked the young man how he was doing.

“Not so good,” Billy responded. “My girlfriend dumped me, I made a “C” in math, and I didn’t make the baseball team. It’s hard to get excited about another birthday when your whole life sucks.”

Texas Buddha, who was busy making a birthday cake, nodded gravely. Billy could see the older man understood and was moved by his disappointment. At one point, TB slid a pinch of unsweetened chocolate to the unhappy teen. Billy, after tasting it, made a face.

“What do you suppose it means that I am making your favorite cake, but none of the ingredients taste good when taken individually? You do not enjoy unsweetened chocolate, or baking soda or flour, but together they make something wonderful. And if you leave out any of the ill tasting ingredients, the cake isn’t what it could be.”

Billy recognized he was being given an important gift, so he leaned forward on the counter. TB continued, “A wise person is like a chef who knows that life isn’t what happens to you, but how you balance it all. I can feel the pain of your experience only because I have suffered in the past. At the time my pain seemed pointless, but today, that pain is an irreplaceable ingredient in my love for you. My birthday wish for you is that the next time life gives you an ill tasting and bitter ingredient, you won’t dwell on what that experience means to you at that moment. My hope is that your wise self will say to your unhappy self, ‘Wait until you see what time and wisdom can make out of this.’ “

When the other guests arrived and it came time to blow out the candles on his birthday cake, Billy didn’t say what he had wished for, he just smiled at his wise old friend.