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Story Archives: Remember, 'for it is in giving, that we receive'
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|Remember, 'for it is in giving, that we receive'|
A friend recently told me about a story he read concerning orphans during World War II. The "lucky ones" were taken to refugee camps. Many of these children had lost so much and had faced hunger so often, even in the safety of the camps they could not sleep. The fear of "waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food" was more than their little hearts could bear.
Nothing the workers said or did brought reassurance to the children until finally someone came up with an idea that worked. At bedtime each child was given a piece of bread to hold. Having the bread in their hands allowed them to sleep peacefully. The bread reminded them, "Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow."
There are many stories in the Bible concerning bread. One is found in the Gospel according to John. As John tells it, there are more than 5,000 folks listening to the teachings of Jesus. Honestly, most of them are not interested in the lessons. Instead, they are there in hopes of seeing a miracle or two. Either way, the mountainside is packed with people.
When I try to imagine the conversation between Jesus and his followers, I can't help but chuckle. Jesus tells his disciples to feed the crowd — and apparently he says it with a straight face! Needless to say, they are overwhelmed at the thought. Phillip knows it's going to take eight months of paychecks (which he does not have) to purchase enough food for the crowd. A few others begin asking those nearby if they have any food they are willing to share.
Apparently all they can find is one boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish. Well, those wanting to see a miracle are not disappointed. Not only is everyone fed; there are leftovers!
I wanted to know more about this young boy with a generous heart. Unfortunately, the Bible only tells us what he has in his lunchbox. I did, however, learn that barley bread was known as the "food of the poor" because it was so cheap.
It would appear that the lad is not from a family who can afford to give away five loaves of bread, yet he shares what he has. And, thanks to Jesus, it is more than enough. Some assume the 12 baskets of leftovers are for the 12 disciples of Jesus. Personally, I think the young boy walks through the front door of his home yelling, "Mom, I hope you haven't started dinner!"
In times like these it is easy for us to become selfish — not because we're greedy, but because we are concerned. There are concerns about the economy and healthcare, about lay-offs and fuel cost. The security we once held on to seems to be dwindling before our very eyes.
In no way am I promoting carelessness, but can we not afford an extra case of water this month? There are those around us who are thirsty. Can we not afford an extra bag of rice this week? There are those around us who are hungry. Do we have an extra hour or two we can offer to a mission or an organization in need of volunteers?
We may not know much about this young boy with the bread and fish, but he does offer us the opportunity to learn about ourselves. Most of us aren't among the "rich and famous." We don't have clout and we aren't considered influential. But we all have something to offer, even if it's only a kind word or a simple prayer.
"Man's Search for Meaning" is a book written by a Holocaust survivor named Viktor Emil Frankl. In this book he tells about those who gave bread to the children in the orphanage. He writes, "It was the men who comforted others and who gave away their last piece of bread who survived the longest — and who offered proof that everything can be taken away from us except the ability to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances."
In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, "For it is in giving, that we receive."
Jo Ann Cooper is a United Methodist pastor of the LA Conference.