I’d just left an award ceremony where my company, Haworth, was a sponsor. The organization helps kids create art with recycled or sustainable materials. There were a couple local celebrities; an actress, and the wife of a famous actor. Of course, here in Hong Kong, it seems there is always a local celebrity; you’ll find one at any of the bars downtown, or especially any random event you attend. It must be a necessity, something you check off after you arrange canapes and a sound system. (I’m quite serious – any event. This comes from someone on the inside. My roommate and I were recently hired to drop in as Captian America and the Green Lantern during quarterly sales meetings for a local telecomm company.)
As a sponsor, Haworth received a gift, something heavy in a red bag. Like that first guy who found gold nuggets in his pockets after he swam in some Californian river a hundred and fifty odd years ago (not really how it happened, probably), I had no idea the wealth I had stumbled upon. I left the ceremony and caught the ferry, as it was a beautiful day and the weather was fantastic. The sky was dramatic, leading sunbeams through the light haze of smog, leaving the island skyline shyly glittering beneath a grainy golden filter. I sat in the front of the ferry because there is no better feeling than to have your hair get blown around like a dog sticking his head out the window on a roadtrip. Out of curiosity, and to determine whether I wanted to go back to the office and drop off the present, or just head straight home, I opened the bag to examine the gift. It was a heavy box, a dark, rich brown, and as I removed it from the bag and caught sight of the logo, I thought only one thing:
Sweet Lord of Mercy!
Can it be?
No. Surely not.
But the logo, like Shakira’s, or perhaps Wyclef Jean’s, hips, did not lie. I removed the plastic outer cover and unfolded the brown box to find a smaller red box inside, covered in velvet and tied shut with a red ribbon.
Could this be true…? (This is so much better than a picture frame.)
I untied the ribbon and opened the treasure chest. Inside there were two – nay, three! THREE decks of Godiva chocolates, smiling at the delight of the boy who found them. (There ended up being only two – a top layer and a secret box drawer underneath. Choco-lust does funny things to your brain.)
It is true. Yes. Very much. Indeed so.*
A triple decker box of Godiva chocolates.
And it is all mine.
I sampled one, a heart shape, and it was one of the perfects; dark chocolate with some sort of thick, softer chocolate cream on the inside.
Moral conundrums have a way of dropping in on us unexpectedly. This could almost seem unfair to some; it was such an unprecedented situation, one may say; it came out of nowhere, the left corner of left field – how could he have been ready?; and so on, with the inevitable conclusion being that one cannot be fairly judged for the decisions one makes when these unexpected situations arise. I tend to disagree; I think these situations arise so that we can see what exactly it is that we are made of. Courage is like orange juice; to get the juice, you have to squeeze the orange. Put it under pressure. Otherwise you never know how good the orange is.
And under such pressure I was. Triple-decker box of Godiva chocolates? Check. Friday night with no plans? Check. Projector with a new Will Ferrell movie and incredibly funny recent New Girl episodes at home? Check.
An office full of coworkers, also sponsors of this event, also deserving of these chocolates, all unaware of the bliss which could be theirs…? Check.
I knew what I had to do. The moral obligation weighed on me. I had no choice. I could do nothing other than offer the chocolates to my colleagues. I could not refuse bringing joy to them. They would be so happy. “Making Hong Kong smile”, as my roommate and I declare our mission here to be.
But don’t think this is a story of good-willed charity, that there was nothing in it for me, for O! sinister designs were being spun. As always, the most nefarious plans are those hidden for a time under the veneer of philanthropy and altruism; the darkest hubris thrives under the facade of generous charity.
As you probably are aware, boxes of chocolates are like beautiful fields which are, unfortunately, laced with mines. They offer promise and fun and beauty, but then you get surprised when you bite into a promising piece and it has that nasty marshmallow stuff, or a cherry, or, maybe over in China, freaking red bean paste, a horrible creation created solely to bomb-ruin what you thought was just a suspiciously heavy bread roll.
Nay – I, like a Bond villain, will reveal my plan to you in advance. You see, I would use my office as a high-stakes, everything-on-the-table game of Minesweeper. I would go in, walk the box around and offer chocolates to everyone, smiling maliciously inside my brain as they made their fateful choices. Choose carefully, I would tell them. There is no going back.
And, then, I would pillage the leftover chocolate. Only one hour left of the work day. Time gets away from us. Freedom approaches. O! the depravity!
I walked into the office with a measured, purposeful stride, used the Emergency Office Assembly Conch Shell and then shouted to all within earshot (about a dozen people), “Everyone! Hearken! Draw near to choose your delight (and under the breath) and to seal your fate!” (That may or may not be an accurate depiction of how it happened. Let’s go with that for now.)
I started to pass the chocolates around, and the first person I visited, a friend who is using the Haworth space for coworking, commented ‘Wait… I think they usually have a little guide? To let you know what you are choosing?’ My gut sank. My plan began to unravel; if they could choose the chocolates… oh no.
Sure enough, he found the guide, and pinpointed exactly the chocolate he wanted. It was a good choice, and he knew it.
Touche, friend. Touche. If that’s the way you want to play, then fine…
Despite him finding the Rosetta Stone for chocolates, I pressed on, sure that my plotting would succeed. However, as I went from person to person, they seemed so happy, so grateful, that I started to forget about the chocolate being my precious. As more people chose, I chided them to take more! I was feeling giddy from GIVING! I began to relate to Santa Claus. (My euphoria may have been the chocolate high from already having eaten eight to ten pieces myself, but that’s beside the point. Not even relevant. The half dozen pieces I knew would be left over? Even less worthy of mention.)
In the end, most of the chocolate was gone, and I took home only the box, because it was made of velvet, and was Awesome, and still smelled like chocolate. Which is Awesome. Much like Sharing, which is the true moral of the Sustainability Chocolate Story.
Sustainability organization, what a magnificent gift you have given us.
Party on, sustainability.
Quotes this issue brought to you by *John Cusack, High Fidelity and **Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, Wayne’s World 1 and Wayne’s World 2.