In the modest dining hall, festooned and super clean, there were four people ahead of me, and five curled up sandwiches on the plate. We knew were late, and lunch had long ended, but thought we would still take a chance. Relieved to be eating refreshments, however stale, we picked up our trays and made our way to the canteen counter, after a morning of training as volunteer recruits for a charitable organisation. We had only met that morning, but I had hopes of getting on well with my new colleagues, in our new roles.
As we walked the length of the counter, suddenly one of the catering staff swooped on one of the sandwiches, leaving only four. The four people in front of me saw what had happened, but picked out one sandwich each, until I got to the head of the queue and found an empty plate.
Dismayed, I convinced myself I was not hungry anyway; perhaps a cup of tea would suffice. I scanned the empty shelves, hoping for a left over muffin, a packet of digestives, or even a slice of bread; but there was nothing at all. It had all been emptied and left surprisingly clean and shiny, which was unusual at that early hour.
I convinced myself there must have been good reason I had been missed out. Often, there is a message when things go wrong; as one door closes, another will fling itself open – or we are saved from a calamity. Perhaps I was just too fat, or the fillings were off. Then I remembered I had eaten a good breakfast, would be having a good dinner, and these souls, who had walked off without a backward glance were possibly not as blessed. I let them, and the stale sandwiches, go, without a trace of regret. A gust of fresh air seemed to enter, as the annoyance left my spirit.
As the others walked off without even a glance in my direction, I placed my coins in the tea making machine, and waited for my plastic cup of refreshment; but as I was about to walk away, a member of the serving staff came out from the kitchen behind the counter, and called me back.
“Excuse me,” she said, “can you do me a huge favour, please?”
“Of course,” I replied, feeling newly benevolent, and admittedly a tad over righteous, with my plasticised beverage and absence of bitterness.
“We’ve been hired out for a small wedding in a few hours, and the wrong food has been delivered. A new batch is on its way, but can you make use of ten servings of salmon, salads, vegetables and desserts? They are ready to eat, and you can take the rest in these insulated cartons.”
I looked around to my sandwich eating buddies, hoping they would wish to share in my new, culinary bounty; but they had gone, leaving me to enjoy my feast with my new catering friends, and still have enough for the homeless, outside the nearby train station.
All’s well that ends well, and the second that the annoyance left me, I felt sure I was being taught some sort of test, in not harbouring anger or resentment, when things went wrong. Thankfully, that gust of fresh air said I had passed. The food was my tangible ‘certificate’.