MCB CAMP LEJEUNE --
St. Louis welcomed the world in 1904 to celebrate the centennial of Jefferson’s monumental real estate deal with Napoleon Bonaparte of France. Formally it was the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, but it was popularly known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. $15 million had been invested in the venue – 1,200 acres and more than 1,500 buildings. Forty three states and 50 countries staged exhibits. 19,694,855 people visited the fair.
On a hot, muggy August day visitors walked for hours browsing through the exhibits, taking their turn at carnival games and enjoying some of the distinctive culinary treats from around the globe. After a few hours they were ready for something to cool them off. That’s why they were lined up in front of the booth of Arnold Fornachou to get a taste of his ice cream. Arnold had a problem though, his ice cream was too popular. So popular in fact, that he soon ran out of paper bowls. Just a teenager, he scrambled to keep his customers in line by washing and reusing the few ceramic bowls he had on hand. But no matter how hard he worked, people frustrated by waiting, wandered off in search of another snack. Then a complete stranger came into his life.
Ernest Hamwi was a pastry chef, an immigrant from Damascus, Syria. Ernest was in the booth right next to Arnold. He was selling a wafer-thin Persian treat called a zalabia…or should I say, he was trying to sell them. When Ernest noticed his neighbor’s predicament, he was struck with a brilliant idea. Grabbing a warm zalabia, he twisted it into a cornucopia shape and rolled it in sugar. Then he ran next door to Arnold’s booth and offered it to him.
Scrambling to wash bowls and wait on customers all by himself, Arnold didn’t understand what the older man from Syria had in mind. Finally, Ernest reached for the ice cream scoop, pulled it through the frozen cream and plopped it on top of the cornucopia cone and handed it to a waiting customer. Arnold instantly got the message, a huge smile spread across his face, and soon the two men were working side-by-side. Ernest made the edible bowls and Arnold scooped the ice cream. Back then, they were called the World’s Fair Cornucopias, and they were the hit of the fair. Today, we simply call them ice cream cone … and they are still a hit.
This is one of my favorite anecdotes. I think of it quite often, because, unlike Ernest, I’m prone to miss what’s right in front of me – even more, I miss the people standing right next to me. Social science calls is inattentional blindness. Some theologians talk about egoic preoccupation. Scripture is more direct, unsubtle, blunt: I’m predisposed to self-centeredness. The Apostle Paul admonishes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.” I challenge you, early in this new year, to consider carefully the phrase “in humility value others.”
The Chaplain’s Corner covers everything faith related. Facts not attributed are purely the opinion of the writer.