Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.1 John 3:17-18
One very chilly afternoon last week a friend and I passed an hour in one of Northern California’s classic bastions of peace, love, and vegan, organic, raw, local, sustainable food served up in haute hippie style (need I mention that we were in Berkeley?). Menu items in this café, it must be understood, are named for declared graces. Thus, after repeating our order for two cups of “I Am Cozy,” our waitress—festively attired in a paisley dress, argyle knee socks, and a purple crocheted crown—said, “I’ll be right back with your tea. Meanwhile, today’s question is: What can we give away today?
She spun on her heel and left, leaving us to think what, indeed? The masses of stuff in my life began to slog in dreary parade past my mind’s eye. My friend wondered aloud if maybe the better question wouldn’t be, "What should we actually keep today?" Inspired, we set to making lists, which naturally began with loved ones (I’m happy to report that after the merest moment of hesitation, our respective teenage children made the cut).
Before we could get much further, however, a grizzled, unwashed, and tattered man shambled into the restaurant, accompanied by a blast of bitter air. Our waitress approached this fellow; they exchanged a quiet word, after which he settled himself at one end of a sofa near the fire, drew a book from his pocket, and began to read.
Shortly after, our order was delivered. “You Are Cozy!” beamed the waitress, settling two steaming mugs before us--and so indeed we were. Just a few moments later we cozily observed the waitress present the man on the sofa with a bowl. Mounded high with grains and beans and greens, it was redolent of a spiced and savory sauce. She handed him this meal and a spoon wrapped in a cloth napkin, then set before him a carafe of clear water and a glass. We barely heard her murmured suggestion, “You Are Grateful.” We almost felt, however, his rumble of warm thanks, and her answering smile and soft blush.
A curious glance at the menu revealed that the meal delivered with such consummate grace is routinely offered to “…those in need…payment by donation…no one turned away.” Those who want to pay are advised that “$14 feeds yourself and another person.”Needless to say, this information and the scene we'd just witnessed contrasted rather starkly to my friend's and my meditations on material excess. It prompted another kind of blush as it begged the question: All that stuff—in the closets, in the garage, in the basement—would translate to just how many bowls of Grateful?
February is a great time to unclutter closets and the soul. It’s a tidy little month in which to remember the joy of living with less and the grace of giving away more—more things, food, wealth, more time, kindness, self. For those who love the ministry of stewardship it’s a terrific time to consider, like kids in a candy shop, which of the many flavors of Christian generosity we want to taste this year. In what ways will we give? How radically generous, to toss in a little sixties lexicon, will we dare to be? And how will we invite others to the party? Perhaps by marrying our joy to humility as effortlessly as did last week’s Queen of the Feast, over those couple of cups of Cozy.
It's a delicious proposition!
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. Matthew 25:35
Posted on Fri, January 27, 2012
by Susan Lee Vick filed under