Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Parable of the Free Breakfasts

There once was a man who one day received a very special offer by mail.  The offer read:

Simply place your order at the speaker, pull up to the first window to collect your food, and proceed to the second window to thank the owner

Skeptical at first, one day he decided to take up the owner on his offer.  He drove to the restaurant, placed his order at the speaker, pulled up to the first window to find his order waiting for him, and he continued to the second window to  thank the owner.  He was overjoyed by the owner's generosity.  He drove off quite pleased.  This continued for several years.  He was very grateful to the owner.

One morning after he placed his order and collected it at the first window, he glanced at the clock on his dashboard in panic as he realized he was late for a meeting.  He sped by the second window and failed to offer a gesture of thanks.  He felt somewhat guilty, but reasoned it away saying to himself this was only a one-time exception.  The next day he continued with his regular routine - place the order, pick it up, and say thank you to the owner.  Day after day, week after week, the free breakfasts were provided.

Several months passed when one day, with his order in hand, he received an urgent phone call.  Feeling the need to answer he made another exception and passed by the second window without giving thanks.  He didn’t even look at the owner as he drove away.  The next day and many days after all was well as he followed the routine. 

But soon, there seemed to be more and more exceptions.  More meetings interrupted his routine.  More phone calls needed to be answered.  He even fell into the habit of sleeping in a few extra minutes nearly every morning not allowing himself the time to give thanks.  He found himself more and more frequently speeding by the second window, yet day after day the breakfasts still appeared.  Eventually he all but quit pausing to give thanks to the owner, except on special days like the anniversary of his first breakfast.  He never failed to offer thanks on that day.

Then one day he pulled up to place his order like he had done now for decades.  There was no response at the speaker.  Puzzled, he pulled up to the first window where for years and years his breakfasts had been waiting for him.   There was nothing.  He yelled into the window to no avail.  This angered him.  He began accusing the owner of being cruel and unfair.  He even yelled at a passerby cursing the name of the owner.  With one last ounce of hope he pulled up to the second window where years ago he had received that first breakfast with such joy and gratitude.  The window was boarded shut.  On the window was posted this note:

Dear One,
What joy I have had seeing you every day for these many years.  Every day you pulled up I was delighted to bless you with your breakfast, but oh how I wanted to give you more.  I longed for the day when you would park your car and come inside to meet me, to really get to know me.  I yearned to sit with you, to talk with you, and to bless you far beyond your imagination, for my resources are unlimited as is my love for you.  But now our time is past.  The opportunity is gone.  And, for that, I grieve.

Upon reading the note, the man, now old and weak, slipped to his knees and wept.  For there is no greater pain than the pain of opportunity lost.