Hello pasta my old friend…

I’ve come to talk to you again.

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North Carolina Pastor Alan Martin is reaching out to poor souls—that is, if they’re handing him a bowl of spaghetti. In September, he bought an Olive Garden never ending pasta pass for $100. Only 1,000 people total bought the pasta pass, and any one of them could break even on the purchase if they ate ten times during the seven week deal.

Breaking even, however, was never Martin’s plan. Since the deal started, he’s eaten at his local OG twice a day every day. He claims he’s received more than $1,500 worth of lowest common denominator Italian food.

You might be asking yourself: Why? Martin told W-something-something-something, North Carolina’s news leader (probably), that he’s in it to win it.

“I would love to be the person that ate the most of the 1,000 people. That would be a good contest to win, because that means I got the most value out of the card of anyone in the United States.”

It certainly would be… IF IT WERE A CONTEST! But, from what I can tell, he is the only one who thinks so.

But maybe his most outrageous claim is he hasn’t gained any weight. I guess it’s possible, if he walks five miles each way to the restaurant.

I wondered, at first, how something like this could be real life. Why is it considered news? Why would someone be so committed to eating this much pasta? How could the person who’s this committed to eating pasta be a pastor? I mean, it’s looking like greed and gluttony already. And it’ll probably wrath when he finds out there’s no prize at the end of the contest.

This was my initial response. A complete meltdown. Again, you might be asking yourself: Why?

Do you remember winning? Maybe it was in little league, dance lessons, or some other low-stakes contest. Everyone gets a trophy, for nothing more than participation. It felt good. Real good. But after time, the lack of shiny trophies and medals makes you wonder if you’ve forever lost your inner winner.

The terrible truth is, when you leave middle school, winning takes actual work. Every important piece of paper, personal goal, or recognition—even for something you’re good at—requires hours of labor, fighting, struggle. And the worst part is: it feels hollow at the end. A few months after, how proud are you of the achievement? It’s no longer your raison d’être but stuffing for your resumé. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s so much sacrifice, pain, and sometimes embarrassment for such short-lived gratification.

Well, Pastor Martin found something that he could win, without giving up anything (except some dignity). I can’t blame him. So I’m making my peace, and congratulating the man.

I hope if we meet in person, he’ll greet me as warmly as his warm penne, ravioli, fettuccine, or whatever. I hope he’ll speak the same, kind welcome to me with that sweet southern cadence:

“Hello, friend.”

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