The Magic of Sharing
I recently returned from a two week mission trip to Kenya, where we conducted eye exams, provided free eyeglasses to those in need, and visited an orphanage and several schools. The opportunity to minister to and with others was a remarkable, life-changing experience I’ll never forget.
I’ve often found something magical happens when you sit down to share food with others. For the hosts, it is an act of gracious hospitality, an opportunity to provide one of the basic necessities of life and to share customs and traditions. As a guest in Kenya, I found it a true honor to be offered food and drink from the tables of those who often do not have enough to eat. It caused me to examine my own practices and to give thought to how casually I sometimes treat the availability of food at home. Clearly, this is a class distinction as much as a geographical one, for many in our own communities wonder if they will have enough to eat tonight.
We ate two meals at the Dickson Children Centre, an orphanage where we help sponsor children. The young boys and girls were all over us, desperate for our attention and affection. They piled on top of us, called our names, and occupied space in every lap and chair arm near us. However, once the meal was served, the focus was clearly on eating.
Interestingly enough, although the children all had full plates and were offered more from the kitchen, there was an obvious culture of sharing. The children wordlessly exchanged food, taking some from others (even when they had plenty themselves) and giving food to those near them. A constant, silent trade went on throughout dinner, assuring everyone had a satisfying meal.
It was a beautiful process to watch, not unlike those crazy eight-way intersections with no traffic signals. Everyone seemed to intuitively know what everyone else needed, and somehow each person had his or her needs met.
Sharing food at our own parishes can be transforming, too. Do we sit only with our friends? Or do we make an effort to share a meal with someone we don’t know well? Do we ensure our meals are healthy and welcoming to all? Or do we ignore common food allergies and other common dietary restrictions? If our meal comes with certain traditions, are we mindful about providing visitors information so they feel included?
I invite you to examine your parish’s practices with food and to make your choices consciously. Don’t miss the opportunity to transform yourself and others in this shared experience!
Matthew Ellis is the CEO of National Episcopal Health Ministries (NEHM).