Food is to be Shared

A friend of mine tells the story of her toddler twins, who were told to share their toys with one another. For a while what they understood from this was not quite what the parents intended. When one wanted the other’s toy, he would grab it and pull, insisting loudly, “We share!” Sharing is perhaps not as easy to teach as we wish it were.

Last Sunday morning in Jon Pahl’s class on Bread as Peace, we talked about sharing versus hoarding, and the ways in which our culture sometimes encourages us not to share. We wondered whether having less—less food or money or security—would open us up to our interdependence as human beings. Americans may be unusually prone to forgetting that people by nature depend on one another; that, as the poet John Donne once wrote, “I am involved in mankind.” For us the sentence, “it takes a village,” comes as a revelation. For other, more relational cultures, it is only common sense.

When I was in Thailand, I was struck by the unbreakable link there between eating and sharing; food and relationships. In Thailand, if you are eating something and someone passes by you, you need to ask, “would you like some?” This is true even if you are eating, say, a lollipop—something clearly designed to be eaten by one person, alone. The invited person will often politely decline, but it’s crucial that the one who is eating must offer. Food is to be shared, period. It’s worth noting too that lollipops and Lean Cuisine, corn dogs and happy meals were not designed by or for Thai culture. Thai food is easily shared, easily extended to feed a few more. The food, like the culture, is relational. This is true of many world cuisines, and worth remembering on World Communion Sunday (October 5).  

The thing about Christians is, we share. Not in the “what’s yours is mine” way of my friend’s twins, but in the sense of coming to the same table, meeting with the same host, and accepting the same nourishment, the bread of life. World Communion calls us to recognize in one another the same hungers, and to share with one another all that is nourishing from our own storeholds.