ESR student Abbey Pratt-Harrington delivered this message during Worship on November 29:
…Food is important to me and my family. It is where we get nourished and spiritually fed. And that’s wonderful.
Then I go to my supervised ministry at Open Arms where I encounter people who are poor. Poor like the widow in the story of Elijah who fed him from her last bit of flour and oil. These are people who do not always know where their next meal is coming from. They do have food stamps and food pantries. This is our countries way of taking care of the poor like God asked. However, these resources do not go that far.
I do not know why I never realized the poverty around me before I worked at Open Arms. I have worked in soup kitchens before and I have studied poverty. Maybe this realization came from actually sitting down with the clients who come through and looking at their finances with them; realizing that there really was no that they can move money around to find ways to feed themselves. This is a harsh reality.
So I have these two worlds. One where I cook free food for people who can probably afford to pay for it. And I truly take joy out of cooking it for them and marveling about the miracle of food. My other world is where I come face to face with people who do not have enough to eat. It started to make me question how this could be. How could I like with this dichotomy? Where was God in all of this?
I wish I could say that I have come up with great answers to give you but I haven’t. What I have come to is a way to live with these questions. It started when I came home from work one day and was standing in my kitchen trying to figure out what to eat. Mentally I was complaining about not wanting to eat anything that I had. I realized how terrible this was. I had food. Even if I didn’t want to eat it and I should be grateful for that. Then I remembered a passage from a book I read about a year ago. The book was called The Year of Living Biblically. In the passage the author was talking about how he had started saying grace. His prayers didn’t just say thank you for food, they said thank you to all the people who went into the process of bringing the food to his table. I thought I would try saying grace like that. Doing that has made all the difference.
Now when I eat, it does not matter what I’m eating. I can find ways to be grateful for the food. I think about and thank all the people who have touched this food. Some of those people could be the ones I help at Open Arms. By doing this I am not only more grateful but I feel connected to the wider world. Everything from the sun to the cashier in the grocery store is part of my breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is a way of inviting others to be with me and thank them. It does not solve the problem of my having food and others not, but it allows me to eat without feeling guilty and gives me strength to continue the work that I carry out. It reminds me of the miracle that is food and it reminds me that I have God to thank for that.