This is a true story. It was told to me by the father the morning after it happened.
Every Saturday morning a colleague of mine would drive his two boys to sport and after their games, would take them to McDonald’s. At that time, the fast-food outlet was having a promotion named, I think, ‘Take a Chance’. Here’s how it worked. When you paid for your order, you were invited to peel off a card from a stack of small cards which were glued in a pile at the edges. This was a ‘Chance’ card. A description of your prize was printed on the underside of the card. There were many prizes, mostly trivial - french fries or a soft serve ice cream, but also various technical prizes etc. However, the national advertising proclaimed there was a major prize - a Suzuki, four-wheel drive vehicle.
On this particular Saturday, the man in the queue in front of his fourteen-year-old son paid for his order and was invited to peel off a ‘Chance’ card. He declined. He said the ‘Chance’ campaign was just a gimmick for kids. He didn’t need more french fries or plastic toys. He stood aside to wait for his order and my friend’s son stepped forward. He placed his order and peeled off the ‘Chance’ card that the man had declined.
The print on the card announced that he had won the Suzuki four-wheel drive, all-terrain vehicle. The girl taking the order gasped, McDonald’s staff came running to see. The manager arrived to verify the win and the whole restaurant was abuzz with excitement. It was a fact. This fourteen-year-old boy, my friend’s son, had won the big prize. The man who had refused to peel off this ‘Chance’ card stood there. He waited for his order and left without saying anything.
I sometimes think about this man. Did he go home and tell his family that he had refused to pick up the winning ticket? Or did he say nothing preferring not to expose his embarrassment?
Telling this story makes me smile, in fact everyone who hears it is amused by it. But, when I think about it, I have to confess I sometimes have acted in the same way as the man in the restaurant. I have made pronouncements about things, situations, people that have later proved to be entirely false. In my case, I think of attitudes I have expressed regarding such topics as religion, politics and racial issues. Opportunity to listen and learn has stared me in the face, but I declined to listen or take action because I thought I knew better.
This business of being sure ‘I am right and others are wrong’ is really destructive. Currently, around the world, men with guns are killing and maiming others. This is not new. It is there on every stage of history. What is the driver of this destructive behaviour? It is the belief that I am right (my side, my race, my religion) and others are wrong. It is this attitude that shuts down dialogue and justifies inaction or worse still, motivates destructive action.
These days I think I know a lot less than I used to think I knew. I am more ready to listen and learn. Pontificating and judging as I used to do, no longer appeal at all. And if someone invites me to take a chance on something, more than likely I will give it a go.
I wonder if the experience in McDonald’s has had a lasting effect on the man in this story. My guess is that it has!