Dalai Lama, the Zen Master of the Buddhist religion, was in New York City, having been invited to speak at the United Nations. Since the hotel he was staying at was just down the street from the U.N. building, he decided to walk instead of taking a taxi. On his way, he came across a hot-dog vendor and decided to try one, not having such food items back in Burma. The Lama ordered a “dog with the works” and paid with a $20 bill – which the vendor promptly put in a cash box, closing the lid on top. The Dalai asked, Where’s my change?” and the vendor replied, “As you from the East say, ‘Change must come from within.’ Next!”
A fortune cookie is a crisp and sugary confectionary usually made from: flour, sugar, vanilla and often cooked in sesame seed oil. Inside is a piece of paper on which are found words giving a vague prediction about the future life of the person who reads. They are mostly served as part of dessert in Chinese restaurants. Today, a whopping 3,000,000,000 (three billion) individually packaged fortune cookies are made each year in North America, averaging out to over 8,000,000 (eight million) baked every day. And in the past few years an addition has been made to the format, with suggested lottery numbers now being printed on the reverse side of the inserted paper. (There are even those who claim data proves that playing the lottery with these seemingly random fortune cookie numbers actually increases your chance of winning.) But did you know that fortune cookies were not invented in ancient China, but in modern America. And that it wasn’t a follower of Confucius, but a disciple of Christ that came up with the idea. And that early-on the pieces of paper inside were not words of eastern mysticism, but of inspired scripture. Here’s the story: David Jung, a wealthy Chinese-American businessman, started the Hong Kong Noodle Company in 1916 in San Francisco. The venture was a success, providing employment for a number of Chinese immigrants. However, the Great Depression hit and put a number of the Chinese out of work. And each day, as Jung made his way to the office, he saw their sad faces. So he came up with the idea of the fortune cookie, a simple sweet treat with a surprise message of future hope inside. And those messages were scripture verses from a Chinese Bible (Jung was a born-again believer). So now, as he made his way to and from work, he gave out the cookies and they became something the unemployed greatly looked forward to each day. The rest as they say, is history.
The bottom line? As with so many things which started out as a gospel ministry, when the individual passed from the scene and the next generation took over – there was money to be made and that meant the spiritual was out and the secular was in. And we don’t need a fortune cookie to tell us that.