41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied,
As seen in this story of the feeding of the 5000, Jesus was the consummate host. Jesus knew that hunger could take many forms, but in this meal, Jesus addresses the crowd’s physical and spiritual hunger.
Physical hunger is not something with which I am personally acquainted. I cannot remember a time that I was truly, miserably hungry and could not get food. However, my Papaw grew up in the North Georgia mountains in the 1930s where he often went to bed hungry. Papaw remembered the Christmas boxes that the Salvation Army brought filled with bounty--a turkey or a ham, canned vegetables, and fresh oranges, apples, and nuts. This box only provided temporary relief for the family’s hunger, but it did provide some comfort around the holidays.
I have known other hungry people. Six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, I went with friends from Canterbury Chapel to provide a meal for the volunteers who were cleaning up a neighborhood. What I found was that the people of New Orleans were hungry not for food, but for people to listen and understand their stories of survival. Listening compassionately to people tell their stories is another way to satisfy hunger.
As a result of this trip, my husband Gus and I formed a cook team when we returned to Tuscaloosa. Gus and I began a to help with the Meals on Wheels fourth Sunday ministry. Although I didn’t think I was a good cook, I learned to prepare chicken pot pie, red beans and rice, and even Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas dinners for 150-175 people. I began to recognize my gift for hospitality and cooking and realized I was feeding people’s physical hunger while allowing the MOW delivery drivers to feed their spiritual hunger with simple human contact.
Finally, in small ways, I continue to feed hungry people. I keep the list of what our food pantry at St. Thomas needs so I can pick up things whenever I go to the grocery store. I donate money when asked at the grocery store for fighting hunger. I write letters on behalf of Bread for the World to ask local, state, and national government to protect food stamps, food subsidies, and school lunches. And I have had examples of feeding people with love shown to me by a seven year old little girl who chose to have her birthday party at the soup kitchen so she could help others instead of getting presents herself. I try to live my life in a spirit of abundance and know with confidence that God will continue to allow me to feed others.