Loaves and Fishes Are Not Dead

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - 6:47 am

Loaves and Fishes Are Not Dead

Here’s a poem I love, based on a story I love — the biblical tale of “the feeding of the five thousand”:

Loaves and Fishes
by David Whyte, from The House of Belonging

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.

As far as I’m concerned, that story doesn’t involve any magic. It’s about the miracle of sharing in community, an everyday miracle that anyone with some courage can pull off. Here’s an example of what I mean, a bit long but worth your time…
After a speech in Saskatoon, I boarded a 6 a.m. Air Canada flight home to Wisconsin. Our departure was delayed because the truck that brings coffee to the planes had broken down. After a while the pilot said, “We’re going to take off without the coffee. We want to get you to Detroit on time.”
I was up front where all the “road warriors” sit — a surly tribe, especially at that early hour. They began griping, loudly and at length, about “incompetence,” “lousy service,” etc.
Once we got into the air, the lead flight attendant came to the center of the aisle with her mike and said, “Good morning! We’re flying to Minneapolis today at an altitude of 30 feet…” That, of course, evoked more scorn from the road warriors.
Then she said, “Now that I have your attention… I know you’re upset about the coffee. Well, get over it! Start sharing stuff with your seatmates. That bag of five peanuts you got on your last flight and put in your pocket? Tear it open and pass them around! Got gum or mints? Share them! You can’t read all the sections of your paper at once. Offer them to each other! Show off the pictures of kids and grandkids you have in your wallets!”
As she went on in that vein, people began laughing and doing what she had told them to do. A surly scene turned into summer camp!
An hour later, as the attendant passed by my seat, I signaled to her. “What you did was really amazing,” I said. “Where can I send a letter of commendation?”
“Thanks,” she said, “I’ll get you a form.” Then she leaned down and whispered, “The loaves and fishes are not dead.”
Do miracles happen? All the time! “People are hungry / and one good word is bread / for a thousand.” So make a miracle happen. Speak a good word to someone today!

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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