Sunlight inches through my kitchen on this quiet Sunday morning.
I ease a bread knife through the loaf of bannock, then slather six thick slices with fresh-ground peanutbutter. Gently I pat the sandwiches together. With care I place each one in a ziplock bag.
As I deboard the No. 24 at Safeway for the mile-long walk to church I notice, right away, three men resting in the shade. They look a little “at the edges.” My kind of people.
“Good morning,” I say as I pull out my earbuds and position myself square in front of them.
Two of them look up and return my greeting. The third keeps his glance tucked beneath the bill of his cap.
“Would any of you like a sandwich?” I ask. “I have three sandwiches.”
Their faces light up.
“Peanutbutter sandwiches,” I say. “Homemade bread, fresh-ground peanutbutter.”
“Peanutbutter is high protein,” the fellow on the left says, maybe so that I won’t feel bad that it’s only peanutbutter.
“Well, that would be mighty kind,” the one in the middle says. He seems the most sociable of the three.
I slide my backpack off my shoulders and onto the pavement, reach in, and pull out the ziplock bags.
Brother Sociable grins and offers gratitude. I notice his teeth, which are crooked and stained.
Brother Eyes-Beneath-the-Brim comes to life, reaches out, receives his sandwich, and nods his thanks.
The third one, who I notice is not so much sociable as flat out talkative, tells me it’s mighty nice of me to give them all a sandwich.
“What’s your name?” Brother Sociable asks.
“Maria,” I say.
“Well Maria, I’m Jim. This here is Silver.”
Brother Eyes-Beneath-the-Brim looks up and nods his head.
“And your name?” I ask Brother Flat-Out-Talkative. “What do you like to be called?”
“I’m Benny,” he gently grins. “But most people call me …” he pauses a little sheepishly, looking sideways at his buddies, “Animal.”
“Animal!” I say.
“Yes ma’am.” And he pulls up his T-shirt sleeve. Right there, in delicate italic, I spot the name: Animal.
“Well, Animal, it’s really nice to meet you.”
I shake each one’s hand.
Animal launches into a complex narrative about arriving here two weeks ago, a friend who is waiting for escrow to close on some acreage, and then his escrow will close and he can build himself a house. He sounds hopeful.
Like many people I encounter, Animal is here because it didn’t work anymore being there.
“I wanna thank you, Maria,” says Jim, “for sharing the sandwiches. It’s a kindly act.”
“It’s brotherhood,” I say. “Sisterhood.”
“Love loves,” he says.
“Love loves love,” I say.
He thinks about this. He gives a solemn nod.
Now he sits up, spokesmanlike, so that he can get out the full intent of what he’s about to say.
“Most of all I want to thank you for thinking to do this. I mean, you made these sandwiches, and then you thought of who you might give them to.”
I think Brother Jim gets this “Love loves love” thing.
Silver, head down, nods in agreement. Animal, too.
Well, I think, it’s nice to know that my generosity is not wasted. But this is not the point.
Jesus, the ultimately generous One, wasted a lot of generosity on me. For years. Just wasted it.
And just when I think that my sandwich-making on a Sunday morning is such a small gesture, really, in a world so wounded and wanting, Brother Jim reminds me otherwise.
This distribution of bread, on a Sunday morning, it’s the multiplication of love. Taking what you have and just giving it away.
I speak, now, only personally. But the work of this Christ-centered life is to actually live the fierce love at the core of me. Not my love, but Christ-love in me.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on
the nature of God’s calling in our times.