Stone Soup Stewardship: A Thanksgiving Tale

Many of you are no doubt familiar with the old story, “Stone Soup.”  In the tale, a group of reluctant villagers eventually create a soup together, bit by bit, in order to help feed some hungry travelers.  In doing so, they learn to open themselves up to the strangers in their midst through the selfless act of sharing.   IMG_2002

It is an old chestnut that one might look at the world as a village.  At Thanksgiving time, especially, it is important to reflect on all the things we have in our country—even when we’ve recently learned to focus on our shortfalls—and turn our minds to the hungry and needy here and abroad.  In doing so, we might see ourselves as a potential donor of one of the Ingredients needed for some much-needed stone soup: “Care for others and the world.”

This ingredient describes the way that we might choose to participate in community and world outreach—in what many churches refer to as their “Missions” component.  Missions includes things like a Walkathon for a children’s summer camp, a food pantry, soup kitchen, local or world disaster relief organizations (providing such things as school supplies, hand-made quilts and health kits), Fair Trade Coffee, projects in Africa, a college campus Food-Not-Bombs Freeganism initiative, and so on. Of course this idea is not limited to churches, but I do believe that there is an important reason for working together on these initiatives.

Here’s a thought. While we can imagine doing this type of outreach ourselves, singularly, when we do this together as a group we’re more powerful—both spiritually and materially.

Here’s a fact. Sometimes when we act alone to help others, we consciously or subconsciously get into a “siege mentality”—believing that we’re living inside a tiny fortress with a forbidding world outside.

In that instance, though we give to others, to a degree we remain worried about our own personal time, resources and personal finances. We worry that we are not setting aside enough for our own future need. Thus, we continue storing up unused goods and funds and girding ourselves against strangers. We bury our ‘talents,’ in a manner of speaking.

When we do this in some ways we are like the Stone Soup villagers whose first reaction to the itinerant men was to shut their doors, ears and hearts to the poor and needy.

However, when we realize that we are not just acting for today, but that—together as a world—we are busy building a better place here on earth, then we become aware that those who we imagined to exist on the other side of our door are actually on the inside, members of our same loving community.

To realize this is to understand the poignant wisdom of St. Francis of Assisi, spoken so many years ago: It is in giving that we receive.

For, indeed, when we share our time and resources—our ‘talents’—we are really opening a connection with others in our world community, to our own brothers and sisters.

I like to think of it in this very tangible way:

When I give food to my local Open Door Pantry, for example, I may be taking food out of my cupboard, leaving a temporary space in there—but even so—I’m never afraid that my own family will go hungry.  WHY?

First, because I know that I am doing the right thing by feeding those who are hungry NOW.  That food is worth so much more in their empty bellies than it is in my storehouse.  That’s a very comforting feeling.

But, moreover, I know very well that someday I might find myself in their shoes.  And, if I ever did get to the point where I had a bare cupboard and hungered, I have faith that the Open Door would be there for me—ready to return the favor—stocked by folks just like me who gave because they believe in spreading the wealth here on earth.

The example can be multiplied a hundredfold: think about that winter coat you don’t wear anymore, or the toys your kids don’t play with, or even those 10 extra inches of hair!  (My eldest daughter and I gleefully shared the latter “kindest cut” side-by-side in a salon last year.)

In giving, we invest in the others in our community who are currently on the down cycle of fate’s ever-turning wheel.

In giving, we remember that even when things are going well in our home—when we’re on the ascent in the world—there are others who are hungering and thirsting—literally or metaphorically.  Such as the people of Wunlang, South Sudan for whom I’ve worked and written about building a new water well.

In closing, this is why we should work together to build a better world, stone by stone, here and now, with hand, heart and all the resources given us.  For, we are our brothers’ keepers and when we do justice to the least of us, truly we cause great joy and healing.


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