May 3, 2013

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

On a holy and sacred day, God isn’t just at church

Patti LambApril 20, the date of my son Henry’s first Communion, was etched in my brain and circled on our calendar.

In the weeks leading up to the special day, Henry would announce a countdown each morning at the breakfast table.

“Thirteen days until April 20th,” he would boldly proclaim from behind a cereal box.

Make no mistake: It was all about April 20.

We were planning a family party the day after first Eucharist, but the real celebrating would happen on the day that he received the sacrament.

After much anticipation, the morning finally arrived. The Mass was beautiful, and so were the children. In their little white dresses and black suits, they radiated God’s presence.

My son pleaded to go to his favorite restaurant for lunch afterward to celebrate. Despite the fact that this same restaurant would cater the food for his party the following day, we proceeded to Qdoba Mexican Grill.

While getting napkins, I missed a cell phone call, which happened to be from Qdoba. Curious, I approached the counter and inquired about the missed call.

“I was calling to see if you were running behind,” the manager said.

“Would you like help out to your car with your catering order?” she asked.

I stared at her, confused. “The party is tomorrow,” I told her. She pointed to the catering sheet.

“It says the 20th on here.”

Then I remembered our conversation when I placed the order. The catering coordinator had asked, “So when is the big day?”

“April 20!” I responded heartily.

I had given the coordinator the wrong date. In my mind, that was the big day. But it wasn’t the day of the party.

There sat piping hot food for 55 people—who weren’t coming for 24 hours.

Nausea and panic ensued. I had visions of wasted food or paying for two catering bills.

“I am so sorry,” I said. That’s all that came out of my mouth while my brain raced to determine how I could fix this.

I didn’t expect the words that followed from the manager’s mouth.

“It’s OK—we all make mistakes,” she said. She told me that Saturday is her busiest day. Since this food was hot, she would put it to use immediately and alert the kitchen to produce less than planned. She assured me that no food would go to waste.

I suggested that I could take it home and reheat it the next day.

“We want you to have fresh food for your party,” she said, while moving catering trays to the kitchen.

I messed up her day after she and her staff went to a lot of trouble to serve me. But when I expressed my sincere apology, she forgave me on the spot. She didn’t even issue a penalty fee or scold me.

Instead, she reiterated that we all make mistakes.

And when I asked if there would be a photo of me back in the kitchen with a mustache and horns drawn in, she said, “We don’t work like that around here.”

I felt like God was speaking through a Qdoba employee.

Initially, I didn’t plan to share this story because it highlights my error. But too often, we only hear the bad stuff. The truth is that there are still good people out there doing godly things.

Plus the manager’s message spoke to me: We’ve let this go. Now you need to.

On a holy and sacred day, God wasn’t just at church. He was also at a quick-serve restaurant called Qdoba.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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