Sing For Your Supper

‘Sing for your Supper’ the sign said outside of the church as Billy was making his way back to Kempston barracks one evening at Christmas time in 1946. Hearing the sound of the congregation inside, the invitation was very tempting to the hungry young lad whose only concern was whether he could live up to his end of the bargain, considering that he couldn’t sing a note in tune. His decision to enter however was supported by his conviction that the Lord would never turn away a hungry soul for singing off key and would surely forgive his shortcomings if he tried his best.

Middle age men dressed in shabby cloths were lined up inside the church singing away for all they were worth. It became obvious that the chorus were regulars and had sung there before, because there were no song sheets to read from and everyone appeared to know the words. Undaunted Billy joined the end of the line moving his lips in time to the music and eventually mumbling words, but mostly praying that he would not be denounced as an imposter before suppertime.

After what felt like an eternity to the hungry lad, the singing eventually stopped and while still standing in a line, everyone received a slice of dry bread, which was immediately devoured by the congregation. ‘These men must be famished,’ Billy thought, resisting the temptation and deciding to save the bread to eat it with his hot supper. The dictionary definition of the word supper is: The evening meal especially when dinner is taken at midday.

Fortunately before the singing resumed Billy realized that he was the victim of misleading advertising and the slice of dry bread was the extent of the supper, which he considered to be a cruel hoax. Stuffing the bread into his mouth he made his weary way back to barracks, confused by the relationship of religion, catering and advertising.

Over the years Billy turned the wording of the sign over in his mind and couldn’t get it to make any sense without being misleading.

"Sing for a slice of dry bread"
"Free dry bread - singing optional"
"Free bread - eat in or take out"
"Sing for a slice - bread not pizza"
"Church exchanges bread for song"
"Leave a song, take a slice of bread"

Billy’s Irish mother had a saying, "You wouldn’t call out bad fish would you?" which loosely translated meant that all advertising has to sound good at the expense of the truth.

He learned the hard way that there is no such thing as a free lunch!