Sometimes I am reminded of a moment in my life when a lesson was learned. I remember an event, a story, that taught me something valuable that I still honor today. We often learn the most valuable lessons by being part of the story that teaches the lesson.
Growing up in the Caribbean, I attended an Adventist elementary school in Puerto Rico. The small school did not have a cafeteria. Every child had two options: go home for lunch or bring your lunch to school. Every morning my mother prepared lunch for me and packed it in a lunchbox that I would carry to school.
As a shy child I ate alone and soon noticed that some children did not have a lunchbox and did not go home for lunch. Instead, they played outside during the lunch hour. In the middle of the school year a new student arrived. She always remained alone, coloring during the lunch hour. One day I sat next to her, and midmorning I heard a loud sound: a stomach growl. I looked at the girl and saw her turn away, embarrassed, as she squeezed her stomach, trying to make the growling stop. She was hungry. Looking at my lunchbox made me aware of what she did not have. From that day forward I shared my lunch with her.
I have revisited that experience quite often during the past several months as I see people go hungry in my own neighborhood. The pandemic has left many without resources for food. Lunchboxes are empty, and stomachs are growling. What there is of time and resources must be shared. A friend mentioned the necessity for volunteers to help in an assembly line of food distribution for a hungry community in southern California, United States. I volunteered.
The day had an early start. Standing behind different tables, volunteers transformed a parking lot into a food bank. The completed boxes were delivered to vehicles driving up or handed to individuals ready to carry the precious items on their shoulders. As people and cars began to fill the parking lot, the volunteers repeated their greetings and questions: “How many people live with you? Do you have children?” These questions helped determine what other items would go into the food boxes: additional fresh vegetables, juice, milk, and more.
As we packed boxes, the volunteer next to me sang. From under the mask she wore, the lyrics of the song were clear: “Loaves and fishes, dear God, feed Your people with loaves and fishes and bless us . . .” I was not familiar with the song, but I recognized that somehow God had placed an experience in her life that helped her recall a lesson learned: love one another; know who will care for you in this hour.
Loaves and fishes. The lunchbox we cannot forget. There is care and compassion demonstrated in that meal. These are lessons to be taught for generations. Scripture describes Jesus’ sensitivity to the crowd’s needs and His ability and willingness to provide sustenance and set a precedence for future service to one another: “Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’ But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do” (John 6:5, 6).
Jesus already knew. We had to be taught. Now we know.
There is a necessity to help one another. There is a necessity to be aware of one another’s needs. There is a necessity for compassion toward one another. Showing kindness to others begins with being aware of their needs. As Christians, in a time of physical and spiritual hunger, we are called to remember; we are called to participate and share the lessons given to us. “Loaves and fishes, dear God, feed Your people with loaves and fishes that You bless . . .”