The Sandwich

Hitting the “1” button next to the elevator, I’d caught a glimpse of my shirt sleeve, then my entire outfit. It was the third straight day I’d worn the same thing. There’s no way I don’t stink by now, I thought as the doors opened. I suppose it isn’t uncommon around here. The doors closed as I made my way down to the hospital cafeteria.


I’d flown to Florida from my home in New York City, but this was no vacation. My mother was fighting stage IV pancreatic cancer, and not winning. My sister Lori arrived first, and after seeing Mom’s condition, called me in NYC and said I needed to “get down immediately”. Within five minutes I’d booked the flight and told my boss I’m taking a leave of absence effective immediately. I was in Cape Coral the next day.

Crazily enough, I wasn’t in the hospital for Mom. One day during all the commotion of friends and relatives who were coming, going, staying, helping, and wishing Mom well, Lori and I noticed Dad walking with a cup of coffee and spilling it everywhere. When I mentioned it to him, he responded unintelligibly.

“Dad,” I said. “You’re making a mess. What are you doing?”

He got angry, but his words weren’t words.

He was having a stroke.

I rushed him to the hospital. Just me. It had to be, because Mom was weak and wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near a bacteria-infested hospital, and Lori had to stay home and take care of her. Tests eventually confirmed a stroke, necessitating a stay of several days. Hence, me wearing the same clothes and getting very familiar with a hospital room couch.


The cafeteria at Healthpark Medical Center is quite spacious, with many stations in which you can select different kinds of food items. However, in the state of mind I was in, even the choice of a meal seemed overwhelming. My mother and father were fighting for their lives in two different places, I hadn’t showered in over 48 hours, and my back was killing me. Couldn’t someone just decide my breakfast for me?

In the center of the room, there was a small station where a cook will make any of a number of breakfast sandwiches, however you like it. It was manned by the same guy who’d made me a fantastic sausage, egg and cheese on Texas toast the previous day. Rubbing my eyes, I walked up to him.

“Yesterday, you made me one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’d ever eaten.”

“Thanks, man,” the cook said. He was a jovial, tall, black man with a quick smile. “I put my heart in every sandwich.”


“Yes sir. Think about it. If you’re not a hospital employee—and you’re obviously not—then the reason you’re here is probably not a pleasant one. You’re either miserable or downright heartbroken. Now, it’s not like I’m doing God’s work here; I’m only making sandwiches. But if I make the best damn sandwich I can for someone going through a tough time, then maybe, just maybe, I’m adding the small bit of positivity they need to help them get through whatever they’re going through.”

I paused for a moment.

I ordered the exact same sandwich I had the day prior.

I couldn’t believe what I heard. Being a fry cook at a hospital isn’t a glamour job, but this guy cooks his ass off every day. Not for the money, not to impress his boss, not even for his own job satisfaction. He does it to spread positivity. I felt a rush of emotions release. My eyes started to water. My life had been complete and total shit for a few days. This was the first bit of positivity I’d experienced in a while.

“Thank you so much,” I said after he handed me the sandwich. “I want you to know I really appreciate your efforts. It means a lot.”

“No problem at all. Have the best day you can.”

I sat down at a table and ate. It tasted like God’s work to me.

  • May 24, 2018