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Food Trucks and the Freedom to Fail

A few weeks ago I did something I’ve never done before: I worked a food truck. A friend of mine owns one that specializes in gourmet hotdogs. I happened to be on vacation on a day when he needed extra help, so I jumped in and got to work.

Check out this menu:

  • Chili Cheese Dog (hotdog with chili, melted or shredded cheese, and chopped onions)

  • Kraut Dog (hotdog with sour kraut and brown mustard)

  • Mac Dog (hotdog with pablano pepper mac and cheese, dried onion and jalapeno straws, and campfire sauce)

  • Cheeseburger “through the garden” (with all the toppings)

  • Street Corn (grilled corn-on-the-cob brushed with lime mayo and sprinkled with Cotija cheese and chili powder)

  • Bottled water and flavored soda

As you can imagine, customers were lined up all night. For about six hours straight, I did a little bit of everything: grilled burgers and corn, dressed the hotdogs and the corn, grabbed drinks, refilled the napkins, burnt a finger or two, chatted with the customers, and sweated half-to-death. It was definitely more than I prefer to work while on vacation.

But, you know what? It was the highlight of the entire vacation for me. Why? Because there’s something surprisingly thrilling about doing good work with good workers.

I manned that hotdog stand alongside five other people. We were crammed in a tiny space, doing what needed to be done. Toasting buns, grilling meat, turning the corn, taking the orders, trying not to get dehydrated – we were all in it together. We were united by a common goal (to help a great friend make great food), and we were determined to achieve it, come what may. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

When I finally got home around midnight, my body was tired but my mind was racing. The experience of working that truck with such dedicated people got me thinking: Why can’t evangelization be this invigorating? Why can’t “seizing the moment” and “making disciples” be this invigorating? And then I realized: When I do that sort of thing with someone else, it is that invigorating!

When I think about approaching strangers, or even friends and acquaintances, to talk to them about faith, or Jesus, or the Gospel, it’s scary. I have to work up the nerve to approach them. I play out in my mind what I’m going to say so that I don’t sound stupid. I worry about sounding stupid anyway and not knowing what to say. I worry about rejection. Worry, worry, worry.

But, every time I have intentionally evangelized or discipled others alongside another missionary disciple, it has been exciting and life-giving. My eyes open a little wider. My heartbeat quickens. I can’t wait to see what will happen! I wish every Catholic could feel what that’s like.

If you truly want to be the kind of disciple that Jesus is calling you to be, but you’re too afraid to “step out into the deep,” then find someone else who is eager-but-afraid and do it together. Go out to the park, or the farmer’s market, or the nearby parish festival and just see what happens. Share the load. Take on this awesome adventure together. Succeed. Fail. Laugh. Have some great conversations. Have some awkward conversations. Get yourself a little team together and figure out what works.

You think my friend’s food truck was firing on all cylinders on day one? Of course not. They had to slip up, burn some buns, run out of ingredients, lose their roof in a thunderstorm (that happened too while I was there), and generally fail in dozens of small and big ways until they finally got it right.

But, they were willing to put in the work. And, when they got it right, it was a heck of a lot of fun.


Nicholas Hardesty

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