I duck into Novella Cafe to escape this October drizzle.
Glass-enclosed Novella, in the lobby of the public library, looks out onto the heart of downtown Eugene. It’s a warm and inviting place, where the ragged people go. And it’s where I go on Sunday afternoons.
I can get a cup of coffee here for a buck. And I can sit at one of the tables and eat my own food. A pretty good deal.
I scan the room for a table, one where people already sit. Preferably the ones with their backs to the counter, their bedrolls banked against the wall. My people.
“May I join you?” I ask.
I don’t quite get the woman’s name. She makes room for me. “My friend will be back shortly,” she says.
She says his name is Treetop. And when he returns he looks as though he has been washing up in the men’s room.
“I have a couple of sandwiches,” I say to the pair. “Would you like a sandwich? It’s fresh baked bread and fresh ground peanutbutter.”
“Oh, no, ma’am, we don’t want to take your lunch,” Treetop says with a weathered, semi-toothless smile. “But that’s kind of you to offer.”
“I already ate,” I say breezily.
Actually, one of the sandwiches was my lunch. And actually, I did eat—feasted, really—an hour earlier at the Eucharistic banquet at my church. You know, the body and blood of the risen Lord, cleverly disguised as a thin wheat wafer and a sip of port wine.
Treetop and his lady friend lean in, their sandwiches remaining respectfully untouched in their ziplock bags. They share with me some details of their lives, a somewhat disjointed narrative. Whole chapters seem to be missing.
I sense that they spare me the hard parts, the heartaches, the bruises that come from the blows of life’s unfairness.
Treetop and his lady friend no doubt were among the four thousand, the five thousand, who were drawn to this man Jesus, the itinerant preacher with a whole different vision for the world. A world that holds space for the ones at the margins.
My thoughts wander back to those days. Am I the kid with the couple of loaves? Or maybe I am one of those disciples suggesting to Jesus that he dismiss the crowds so they can go into the local villages to get something to eat.
But the logistics of love don’t work that way.
“You give them some love,” Jesus says.
At this I say, “Are we going to spend two hundred days’ wages for love to feed them?”
“How much love do you have?” Jesus asks. “Go and see.”
When we figure out how much love we have, we answer, “This much.” He tells us to make the people sit down on the green grass.
Then, taking the little bit of love that we disciples have gathered, Jesus raises his eyes to heaven, pronounces the blessing, breaks the love, and gives it to us to distribute. People feed themselves on love until they have their fill. And then we gather up enough leftover love to fill twelve baskets.
The multiplication of love, I think. I look at Treetop, look at his lady friend. They seem so appreciative of the moment, in from the rain, warm with this moment of human conversation.
For a moment I feel included in their world. And for a moment, perhaps, they feel included in mine.
And I think of a phrase from the Book of Tobit: “Share with the hungry some of your bread.” Some of your bread, it says. I can do that.
Jesus, you know, never fed all hungry people for all time. He fed a few. He did not heal the wounds of all humanity for all time. He touched and healed a few.
He shows me how it’s done. Now it’s my turn.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on the nature of God’s calling.