When I was a new teacher and on the brink of nervous exhaustion, another more seasoned teacher presented me with a bowl of lentil sausage spinach soup and a hunk of homemade bread to get me through a particularly hard evening (my first back-to-school night). I remember sitting in the dark, empty classroom eating the warm soup and bread and being brought to tears. This was a small kindness, perhaps, but it pierced me deeply. How could someone who was just like me - a teacher, also preparing for her next day's classes - be so generous to share her dinner with me? She owed me nothing, and yet, she offered me this kindness? This very busy teacher could have saved that soup for another day. But she chose to give it way, almost recklessly, without thought for herself. I ate the soup, humbled and grateful. And I have not forgotten.
There is something about breaking off a piece of your bread and giving it to another. There is something in taking a piece of your allotment, your sustenance, and giving it to another. Here you go, have mine. Tomorrow, I have faith, I will find more. In the meantime, take this. You need it.
I think of the radical food-givers. I think of the little boy, many years ago, on the hills in the Galilee. He was the only one among the throngs of thousands to have brought a lunch for himself. Surrounded by hungry people, and surely hungry himself, he gave away his little lunch of bread and fish. He gave it whole, without breaking the bread (some for you, some for me).
I think of the friend who knocked at my door, carrying a banana cream pie, the day after I lost a baby.
I think of the ordinary people who will show up tomorrow at a shelter near my house, a shelter for abused and homeless teens. These moms and dads, government workers, bosses, and employees will flip pancakes, pour juice, crack eggs, and share a Saturday morning breakfast with the girls.
I think of my widowed neighbor, whose grief struck so hard and so fast that she can barely remember to breathe, let alone eat, and of the neighbors who have surrounded her and filled her kitchen with meals.
There are so many things that are beyond me. As much as I want, I cannot heal the broken-hearted. I cannot rescue the abused. In the face of so much pain and brokenness, sometimes we have only one thing to offer: our little lunch. Our lunch is small, insignificant, and we may wonder - what can possibly be done with one small loaf of bread? How many people can it really feed? How is this bread actually going to change anything?
I don't know the answers to these questions. I don't understand how feeding mouths touches souls. I don't know how receiving a free gift, underserved, changes you. I don't know how a small loaf of bread multiplies, grows, fills you up and is then enough to pass to another and another and another. What I do know, is that when we love someone, we feed them. And when we feed them, we love them.
Simon, do you love me, Jesus asks. Yes, Simon says.
Shared on: Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Traditional Tuesdays .