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World Food Sunday (from Oct 18, 2015)

 

“What truly feeds us?”

A few years ago, I read a beautiful and very simple book called, Sleeping with Bread. It was written by Dennis and Sheila Linn and Dennis’ brother, Fr. Matthew Linn S.J. The title of the book came a following story they recount early in the book:

During the bombing raids of World War II, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But, many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”

 “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”

Please indulge me a moment, and say these words with me.

“Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”

“Thanks be to God.”

I do give thanks, each day, that I can say these words. In the life I lead with my family, the only reason we might not have food in the house, is that we have neglected to stock the pantry, and I need to go shopping. This happens sometimes! But even in those times, it is never the case that there is no food in our house, perhaps just food we do not care to eat today.

In the house I grew up in, actually, in the series of houses I grew up in, it did, actually happen, on thankfully very few occasions, that there was nothing in the house to eat. My parents worked hard, and I do not remember a time when either of them were unemployed for any long period. But there were definitely times when they were under-employed, or when what they earned simply did not stretch far enough.

I don’t know how aware of this my younger siblings were, as we grew up. As the eldest, I have clear memories of looking through the cupboards while both my parents were out at work, searching for something to prepare, to feed my brother and sister for lunch.

This was not a daily occurrence, but it happened enough that I remember it. Enough to carve something in my soul, a wound that still opens sometimes when I am at the grocery store. I do a lot of the food shopping for my family, partly because it’s something I am good at, and partly because it brings me great joy to be able to provide for my loved ones.

I have noticed something the last few times I have taken one of our children with me to buy groceries, and the old wound has opened. The old feeling of pain, the old fear of not having food enough, these have largely been transformed into gratitude, because we do have enough. Sometimes I celebrate, and share the joy by telling which ever child is with me that they can choose anything they want in the store, anything to eat or drink, and I will buy it, with no questions asked, and no parental nutritional advice attached.

Sometimes I tell my kids how amazed and overwhelmed I am at being able to walk into a grocery store with the means to buy basically anything I might want. I do not, and cannot take this for granted. Not in a world in which 800 million people will go to bed hungry tonight.

“Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”

The story about placing bread in the hands of traumatized children, so they could sleep through the night without fear stays with me.

That story gave the title to this book called “Sleeping with Bread”, which actually has very little to say about food. The book is about spiritual practices, that feed the soul, by helping a person pay attention to all that God has provided in their life.

God offers us so much. There is love, and beauty, and freedom, in our lives. There are opportunities to learn, and to heal, and to grow, and to be of service to others. There are opportunities to overcome fear, and to grieve well, and to mature. There are opportunities to pause, and breathe, and to look at the gift of our lives, and to do the wonderful spiritual work of giving from what we have, for the sake of the health and well-being of others. There are so many blessings.

It makes sense the book would begin with a story about bread, because when a person is physically hungry, and because of their life experience, are also truly despairing that any food is likely to come their way, it must be so hard to recognize the other blessings in life.

That little story can remind us that hunger is a spiritual issue. How would it change our openness to God, and to God’s blessings, if we lived like one of those hungry children, but there was no kind person to offer us the comfort of bread to hold?

When someone visits our home, if we truly want them to feel welcome, what do we do? We offer food or drink or both?

When we are beginning a new friendship, or starting a romance, what do we do? We invite the person to eat with us- we take them out for a bite to eat.

When Jesus wanted to encourage his friends to remember him, and to live with confidence in God’s continuing presence with them, what did he do? He broke bread and poured the cup of communion.

Food is such an essential part of being human, and being human with each other. We can use the gift of food to make the world a better place.

I want to show you a video about a place in Hamilton, called the 541 Eatery and Exchange. It has been developed and is being run by people connected to a church. They understand the spiritual power of food, and the importance of passing on blessings.

541 Eatery and Exchange

Here is a link to the actual restaurant:

the restaurant

 

 

 

 

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