Fazal’s Food. An exercise in respect for culture and religion.

Fazal stood before the delegates, at the end of the Celebrating Humanity© session.
The Diversity Training facilitator’s voice trembled with emotion as he spoke.

“I have been deeply touched, by your giving and humanness. The lengths to which you have gone, to ensure that we have been fed, goes beyond anything that I have ever experienced.” As he spoke, tears and smiles began to fill the room.

Our story begins in our offices, during November 2007, and takes us about about 120 miles to an industrial harbor city.

Our company had been contracted to run a 2 day Celebrating Humanity Foundation© session, over 2 consecutive weekends, for a Shipping Agency. In order to get the finer details correct, I got in my car and drove to a meeting with the branch manager – Clint Evans.

We sat down and chatted about his team’s needs, the venue and the make up of our teams. One of the immediate challenges was the fact that there were two people, who had specific dietary requirements – based on their religion.

One was Fazal, from our team and another, a member of the client’s team. (It is critical when facilitating transformational team building that one gets the food right – and even more important, when running work functions.)

After I left, Clint  had his organiser check the various venues and settled on a hotel that promised halaal food.

A week or so later, Fazal and I arrived on site, to find that the hotel did not serve halaal food, as it served alcohol and pork, on the premises. The wonderfully humble, Fazal – told me not to worry. He would eat bread and fruit, and that his family had packed some food for him.

During the programme we covered food diversity – as a way to build relationships. And even though Fazal had urged me not to, I told the Clint about the lack of halaal food for him.

Clint later told me that the hotel team had promised to collect a halaal meal, if their offerings were not acceptable. I asked Fazal to arrange this with the hotel. And yet, at lunch-time he sat with some bread and fruit. I asked him what the challenge was. “No problem. The hotel did not have transport available. Don’t worry bhaya (brother), I have eaten my full.”

As we all know, food is one of the cornerstones of relationship building. And one of the easiest to mess up.

When I related the story to the team, against Fazal’s wishes, they were shocked. They had done everything they knew how, to get the right thing done. Again Fazal spoke, “Please don’t worry. I am quite used to it. I will bring some home food next week.

During the following week, Clint contacted me. “I have found a small Muslim restaurant in Richard’s bay. I have made contact with them and will bring a menu for Fazal to choose from. They have promised to deliver.”

On the next Saturday, Fazal was given the menu. He spoke to me, and said, “I don’t want to impose, bhaya. They mustn’t worry, we have brought some food from home. And we don’t need much.”

I said to him, “Fazal, this is not your choice. This is their journey. And you know the biggest gift, that you can offer right now, is to receive gracefully.”

“Ok bhaya, sorry”, he said with a gentle smile. He placed his order and we left it at that.

At lunch Fazal and his partner sat together and enjoyed a perfect halaal meal. They were obviously touched, by the actions of this amazing group.

Little did we know that Clint and his team had physically gone to check the local halaal food providers. They had found one perfect place, in a small far-away suburb, collected the menu and brought it to Fazal.

As we drove home, that evening, Fazal spoke at length, of how they had honoured his uniqueness, respected him, his upbringing and his religion. In all of his 46 years, this had never happened.

He has experienced the wonder of the human spirit. And the depth of caring, will stay with him forever.

In this story, we honour the people of the shipping agency, for the extent to which they have gone, to show their wonderful humanness and respect for humanity. They have brought a great lesson, to us all.