Sharing the gift

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She came for lunch one day carrying some scallions, newly pulled and wrapped as if they were a bouquet of flowers. They came from her husband's tiny garden back of the house -- a garden that gave this gentle chairman of the Deparment of Philosophy at the nearby university, a feeling of sublte reward -- his contact with seeds and earth enhancing the serenity of the mind. To share something from this garden could well be considered a privilege.

Since my friend and I both love poetry, we chatted about peoms all through the lunch and later, still seated, she gave me another gift.

"Do you know what my husband teaches about food? He believes that food offered is love offered."

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Who would ever again thank me so graciously for a simple lunch? And leave me with a trusth that elevates an everyday act to such importance in our relations with each other?

The mind acts sometimes like a jack-in-the-box. A memory of something, stored away a long time ago, becomes suddenly as clear as if it were just happening. I must have been ten years old and standing in my father's small grocery store when one of our customers came in. She was the one we called the "elegant one" because she came to shop wearing gloves and a hat, and carrying the sort of basket one usually associates with cut flowers. As families of immigrants moved into the neighborhood, the other upper class onners of what we now call "town houses" (because they stood shoulder to shoulder) left the neighborhood. Like the last leaf on a tree, thism neighbor, remained in her house. I remember delivering an order to her one day. The door was opened by a young girl, about sixteen, who must have been visiting. What a contrast! I, in my only pair of shoes, wearing a too-thin winter coat, my hands rough and red; she in a gray, woolen dress, her hands smooth and white and long-fingered.

On the day the "elegant one" came, my mother asked our fine customer if she would like to come inside, behind the cloth curtain that separated the store from our living quarters downstairs, for something hot to drink. The invitation was accepted, and there at the oilcloth-covered table, she sipped, and nibbled on slices of hastily cut store cake, as if she were among her socials equals. We were offering her love! What a delicisou thought!

Food offered is love offered.m

The mind refuses to file away this truth and one thinks, often, of its many-faceted applications.

Surely it must be true of those who wander the face of this earth with all their wordly possessions in a small, knotted bundle. When they stop to rest under a bridge or beneath a tree to heat some soup in its can, offering to share what little there is with another weary, dusty stranger who happens along -- love is being offered and accepted, wordlessly, tankfully.

What of soup kitchens? Hunger brings the defeated, the derelicts, the restless young forever on the move, the unemployed passing through a large city -- brings all together at a wooden table to break bread. There may be a sermon before the meal, or one given when the meal is over, but love is that room, surpassing words -- even if the givers and receivers are not aware of it.

Our ancestors shared bread and salt with guests and strangers. What household does not follow, in some way, this gracious hospitality? No sooner are guests made comfortable than food and drink are brought out to refresh them.

The Bible tells us: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers for thereby some have entertained angels unaware." Offering love to an angel. The thought is delightful.

Scallions offerd like a bouquet. A truth for dessert. Such blessings make it possible for even a large cup to brim and overflow.

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