Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Lesson In Sharing

It confused me. After all, these are poverty stricken kids. I watch everyday as they dramatically duel over whether a goal was a goal and fight over who deserves to be first in line. And here they are with pizza, a rare treat. And they take a bite of it, make a comment about how good it is, and then wrap it up in napkins and put it in their backpacks.

Confused, I asked one kid why. With sincerity that only a child has, he told me his mom has never tasted pizza before. He was saving the slice so they might enjoy it together later. As the kids left I asked why they didn’t eat their pizza then and there. All told the same story but through different words: “I want my sister to try it” said one. “My brother and me will eat it when he gets out of class tonight,” said another. “My dad will miss dinner tonight and I want him to have food when he comes home,” said the last one as he smiled and left.

Just when you think you know it all, these kids do that to you. In one fleeting moment as my time here draws to an end, I saw what I guess I had always hoped I would always see working with people in poverty:

“When it was evening, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away: give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, bring them here to me, and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over- twelve wicker baskets full.” Matthew 14: 15-20

Perhaps the modern day parable would go something like this. As another dark night fell upon the world’s poor, the naysayer’s cried out “you see, we give them this and that and still those Haitians (or Bolivians or Ecuadorians or Sudanese) have nothing to show for it. This land is barren, these people prone to poverty. Let’s stop the aid and have them buy their own food. They don’t need us, so send them on their way. Only then will they eat and be plentiful.

But Jesus saw the falsehood in this and ordered the people to sit before him. As the crowds swarmed around him, he took what food he had, and shared it. “Take what you have and share with others” he pleaded. 15 cents of every $100 isn’t enough for international aid, Mr. US of A. Meanwhile some poor street kids no more than nine years old, took what little they had of their rice and beans or empanadas and paticones, and shared them. And in this utopia, the rich watched with amazement, and instead of making excuses to account for the miraculous generosity they witnessed, they created their own miracle, and slowly began to share as well. Food was not used for E-85, and so corn prices went down. “How great it is this little child no longer has to die for the luxury of my Ford Expedition” cried with joy one soccer mom.

Food prices weren’t marked up for higher profits, and the fuel companies let go of their record breaking 2007 profits to see to it that people could come from all around to share what little they had. And they discovered this: there was enough food to feed everyone. There was no reason to hoard it.

Little poor kids with hungry stomachs took what little they had and saved it to share with precious loved ones. What a world this could be if we’d all follow their example. We can do better, we must do better. There’s some second graders in Ecuador sharing what might be their one slice of pizza all year long that are counting on us matching their generosity and love. Do we hear that story, imagine that moment, and still have the audacity to ignore a world in need? From underneath the 12th street bridge to the ravaged fields of Haiti, the people are crying out. What are we to do? Matthew 14: 15-20


mom said...
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mom said...

Wow! good food for thought (and action) Patrick! thanks for sharing. Mom Schallock