Paul writes, “The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:10-12)
Her son was fourteen when he died. On the day of the funeral her husband returned, took to his bed, and did not leave it until he too died six months later … In the long years of her son’s illness, Sarah had spent much time with him in the children’s wards of hospitals. There she met many others like her son and met the mothers who, like herself, spent every hour they were allowed to with their children. But she also met children no one cared enough to visit, children who had been abandoned, orphaned, or who came from homes where the need was so desperate that no one even had the time for visits.
In the midst of her own grief she felt the special grief revealed in the faces of these small children who lay on their hospital beds and watched with large silent eyes as day after day people came to talk and play with the other children in the ward, while they remained alone, unloved. Even then, she began stopping to talk with one or two, after being with her son. And if she brought some special little treat for him, she would bring along something for them, too …
Sarah left the hospital and found a quiet park bench. Her grief now seemed total. She wept, crying for her son, her husband, her family, herself, and for those children she would not see again. When the tears subsided, she picked up her purse and stood. Just then something occurred to her … Perhaps there were others who needed her care. It was soon afterward that she applied to become a foster parent and for many years following, years that stretched long after the time when her own children had left home and married, she had girls in their early teens come to live with her. Some stayed a few weeks; others stayed for years.
And so began a pattern that would be hers for decades to follow. She rose at five in the morning, then walked to church for six o’clock Mass; she returned to make breakfast for those she cared for, meet her appointments for permanents or hairdos, make a quick lunch, and finally cook dinner. And not a day went by when she did not bake bread. She fit it in between her appointments and later on in the evening. She baked dozens of loaves at a time. Companies that sold to bakeries now regularly delivered one-hundred-pound sacks of flour to her door … Every loaf she baked was given away. She baked for churches trying to raise money; she baked for soup kitchens serving food to the poor and homeless; she baked for her family and for the growing number of grandchildren; she baked for any of her neighbours who she felt needed extra care or for anyone else she heard of who needed help.
Her philosophy was simple and direct. “God tells us to give what we have,” she would say. “All I have to give is my bread.”
But she was giving much more than that. She was giving a special kind of love, a love that at once reached out to others while also making her life all of one piece, so that everything she did, routine or ordinary as it might otherwise seem, came to express that love. It was there in the care and sympathy with which she listened to her customers who remained steadfastly loyal to her; it was clear that they received from her much more than care for their hair. It was there in the way she would laugh with and listen to the girls who stayed with her and the grandchildren who were always visiting. It was there in how she made bread. Ω
Reflect: Here, we see “a love that at once reached out to others while also making her life all of one piece.” When have you experienced such self-giving love? How has it borne fruit in you?
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent. This year’s theme is Fruit of the Spirit. Why? Read this. #Lent2022. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent © Sanctuary, 2022. From Ernest Boyer Jr. Finding God at Home. Family Life as Spiritual Discipline. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984: 47-50.
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