“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Food is a language that can mean different things to different people. Whether it means sustenance or celebration, food feeds our souls. Growing up, there was always enough for one more at the table. We never had much money when I was little, and it was always so amazing to me how mealtime was at times like a re-telling of the loaves and the fishes as we never ran out of food. To this day it humbles me and I don’t pretend to understand how that could be. Suffice it to say that one of lessons learned from food at my house was that they were gestures of faith and goodwill.
I have an old family story about my paternal grandfather that supports this notion. More than 70 years ago, my grandfather was a small-town grocer who owned and ran his own store. These were the days before supermarkets and families grew what foods they could, tended poultry and cattle, and purchased the remainder of their needs from their local neighborhood grocer. Times were hard and money was tight. So much so that it wasn’t uncommon for families to buy their provisions on credit. Being a compassionate man, my grandfather would extend lines of credit to families that were struggling. Most would buy what they needed during the week, and then come by to settle their account on pay day. Thank God this option existed because so many would have gone hungry and families would have had to send some of their children away to other relatives to live for fear of not being able to feed them. My grandfather had a very large family of his own. He understood what it took to feed a small army.
On one winter’s day, my grandmother sent one of my cousins to my grandfather’s store to tell him to come home for dinner. The story goes that my cousin found my grandfather sitting in front of the pot belly stove used to heat the store – throwing credit slips into the fire. When asked why he was doing this, my grandfather replied that many of the families in the area were struggling so hard that certain families would never be in a position to pay their bill. Symbolically, my grandfather was forgiving their debt. That story was (and still is) very humbling to me because for as many times as we use food to celebrate happy occasions, there are times when we use it to help friends and family get through tough times. These were never hand-outs. We shared what we had because it was the right thing to do – no more, no less. It reminded everyone that hope was at hand and that community was everything. Although many of us forget this today, the same principles hold true. There are countless opportunities to remind those in need that hope is hand and that they are not alone.
This weekend, my Facebook food page, Les Repas de Mon Enfance passed a huge milestone. We broke the 1000 fan mark in less than a year! Collectively, this group represents food lovers, or foodies, from all over the world. We all come from families with rich histories, interesting stories, and pivotal events that had an impact on our lives. I want to challenge each of us to celebrate this milestone by helping someone in your family or neighborhood that could use a little reminder that community matters and that hope is at hand. Invite someone to dinner. Bake two loaves of bread and give one away. Donate to a local food bank. Teach someone how to cook. Do whatever is appropriate to give thanks for the countless bounties you’ve had in your life, and share a little of it with someone who may not have had one in a long while. Food knows no boundaries. It also doesn’t discriminate based on class, creed, or color. Give the gift of food this week. Please feel free to share your stories and experiences here! Thanks to all and share your bounty..