Image Description: A single roll of toilet paper viewed from above.
This week, I’m creating blog post reflections based on Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
The title is accurate: In Washtenaw County, Michigan, we’re TP-ing each other’s houses. But in a totally different way than that phrase usually suggests. Local organizers started a Facebook page called Washtenaw County Mutual Aid Resources. In that space, people are helping one another to address a variety of needs.
Some are letting people know about public resources and how to access them. Some are advocating for paid sick leave. Some are requesting Venmo, PayPal, and CashApp accounts of those who are losing income due to cancelations, and they’re sending money along.
And you guessed it, we’ve started a thread that invites people to pass toilet paper along to those who need it.
In my faith tradition, there are stories about Jesus feeding crowds of 4,000 to 5,000 people from a mere five loaves of bread and two fish. These enormous crowds have been following him and assembling together to request healing and listen to him teach. The disciples of Jesus want to send them away to surrounding towns to buy food, but Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.”
Crickets. How do we do that?
They’re likely panicking. It’s a task too large, and they don’t necessarily want to be responsible for people growing weak and fainting.
Maybe they also want a break.
Please. I need some introvert time. Send them awaaaaay for a while.
“We only have five loaves of bread and two fish,” they say. Could that have been a sarcastic response?. Or maybe just a declarative, matter-of-fact one? A practical one?
We’re not going to be able to do it.
But then, a miracle happens. Jesus begins to break that bread and share that fish, and everyone has enough to eat. They even finish with twelve baskets left over.
What happened here?
The traditional interpretation I’ve heard most is that Jesus reveals himself to be a creator: He’s in alignment with The Creator and is one and the same. He miraculously creates and multiples this food out of virtually nothing.
But I’m also intrigued by another interpretation:
What if Jesus began giving this food away to the first few people as a deliberate teaching moment? Modeling this first, what if people then understood he was issuing an invitation? What if they then reached into their pockets or satchels or baskets or whatever they used back then and began to share the food they have too? Giving and receiving, what if they passed it all around to their neighbors and were amazed to discover that there’s enough? Even more than enough?
That invitation continues right now.
In these days, we might turn ourselves toward what is most ultimate in our lives, whether we call that God, a Higher Power, or a Some-Larger-Meaning/Value-That-Informs-Who-We-Are, and ask,
What need do I see or know about?
What abundance do I have?
How do I make them match?
Or even… What meager, small thing do I have? What tiny thing can I share as part of a collective contagion of giving? Something that might chip away at a need and inspire more giving?
These are good questions.
We’re going to keep TP-ing people’s houses. And we’ll provide in other ways too.
I wonder what that might inspire…