Written by Randy Evans
When I started sharing a meal on the riverfront in the summer of 2015, I had to make a decision whether to serve the food to my friends or let them serve themselves. Ultimately, because of the way the city ordinances were written, I had everyone serve themselves. This decision presented a major problem: everyone had a poverty mentality. The poverty mentality suggests that I will worry about myself for today, and if tomorrow comes, it will be dealt with then. In other words, our friends would load their plates down with food thinking that they might not eat again. I remember showing up to the river with the exact amount of servings needed for the entire group; however, less than half the group was able to eat, for some people took two or three servings. Now mind you, none of the food went to waste, for they ate every bite, so I’m not suggesting they are greedy; it’s an example of the mindset of poverty. I had a choice: I could either find a different location and take my “rightful” place by “serving the homeless,” or I could start making larger amounts of food each time. As you probably guessed, I started to make larger portions. I didn’t have a lot of money to work with, so I had to figure out how to be economically savvy. After a few weeks of making more food, I started to witness a transformation in my friends that I had not seen prior to this. The group started to be concerned whether or not others had eaten. There was a sense of community being created right before our eyes. What was causing this? It was ABUNDANCE.
Abundance means plentiful. Most of us have an abundance of something in our life, whether it be toilet paper, friends, cars, clothes, shoes, or whatever the case may be. Abundance is something that we don’t always acknowledge. We also tend to defend our abundance in many different ways from, “I work hard for what I have” to extreme couponing. What do you do when you find yourself with an abundance of something? Do you keep it for yourself? Do you share it with others, especially those who are struggling and could be blessed by your generosity? Do you seek to add even more to your stockpile? We live in an individualistic society and often times we find personal satisfaction in abundance. There is security in not worrying if we will have enough of something, even more so when it is a basic need, like shelter. We all find warmth and worth in that.
On the other hand, in regard to someone in poverty, they view abundance in a totally different way. They embrace abundance as a means of survival or as a means to an end. I would not call it hoarding, especially with food. We, as privileged folk, are able to dictate the amount of food, clothes, or services, and in most cases, even dictate the standards. The problem is the amount that we serve individuals in poverty matters, whether the amount is based on nutritional value or simply out of respect. Should individuals in poverty deserve to experience abundance in life? My answer would be yes. When we use the gift of abundance to connect with someone in need, we are saying, “you’re worthy of the same things I am.” Whenever I need to buy food for a lunch on the river, a BBQ, or a family dinner, I always err on the side of bringing too much. I am aware that our friends might not know when they will eat again. When we give abundantly to someone in need, we relinquish our control over someone else’s decision on the amount they need. People experiencing poverty often have very little control over what they can have or what is offered to them. We then provide a space of acceptance and allow them the freedom of taking what they need. We offer more than what is expected. We do this beyond the tangible things like food; we also offer an abundance of acceptance, respect, worth, and dignity. By doing this, we form communities without governing the supply. This sense of community plants the seeds of connection – something we all could use an abundance of in our lives.
What would it look like for you to extend abundance to those in need? What would it look like to offer a little more than the norm?
To see this in action, I invite you to attend our lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays and our family dinners.
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