Loaves and Fishes

A few weeks ago, on a sunny day, I put my students in pairs and told them to go for a 15 minute walk and check in on each other, and to specifically ask “What are the words you need to hear right now?” When they got back from their (much appreciated) walks, I asked them if anyone wanted to share what they had said they needed to hear. The answers were not that surprising, because we are all sharing space in the same bonkers world, but the honesty with which some of them answer always takes me by surprise. I heard things like “I wish someone would tell me the world doesn’t have to sit on my shoulders” and “I wish someone would tell me it is okay not to have things figured out” and “I wish someone would tell me anything, that they would just be there for me”.

I thought then of the poem “Loaves and Fishes” by David Whyte. It goes like this:

This is not
the age of information.

This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry,
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

People are hungry for good words, for people who will speak life around them and to them and into them.

I came into my office today in between classes and saw some cards left by students in honor of social work month. It was the highlight of my workday (and maybe my whole day, minus seeing my kids), to feel seen and appreciated and loved.

In terms of what it would take to build the Beloved Community, Dr. King wrote about agape love. He described it as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative” (from The King Center https://thekingcenter.org/about-tkc/the-king-philosophy/) He went on to say that agape love didn’t discriminate between unworthy and worthy people, and made no distinction between a friend and an enemy. Finally, he said, this kind of agape love is the foundation for community.

This is what I want to have flow out of me when there are stressful meetings at work. This is what I want to flow out of me when the food server gets my order wrong. This is what I want to flow out of me when students ask the question I. Have. Just. Answered.

This is what I want to flow out of me when it seems easier to keep the mask on, either literally or figuratively.

I want agape love to flow out of me and I want to speak words of light and truth. And, like the parable, I hope that though my words are simple “loaves and fishes”, that they have a reach beyond what I can imagine or plan.

2 thoughts on “Loaves and Fishes

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