Today someone offered me a piece of a chocolate donut … and it made me cry.
I spent this morning at Manna House in midtown Memphis, which offers hospitality, showers, change of clothes, coffee and rest to area homeless persons. After we served coffee, provided showers and dispensed basic toiletries, socks and clean clothes, we spent some time in the back yard, just talking and listening to our guests.
One man talked about how hot Memphis is in summer, and that he really wants to find a place to sleep inside before it gets too hot. Another told me which alley he sleeps in. Both had come into the backyard at Manna House with sack lunches and quickly began making trades: a peanut butter sandwich for a brownie, ham for a bag of chips. One of the men spent a good minute or so driving a hard bargain for a donut. Then he sat down, began to unwrap it and before he took a bite, he offered a bite to me.
He knows I’m not homeless. I’m obviously a middle-class white woman and I wore a nametag that identified me as a volunteer. But he offered me the first bite of his donut. Not what was left over when he finished it. Not the donut he didn’t want. The donut he negotiated and traded for. The first bite.
One of the founders of Manna House explained to me that the name comes from the manna God sent from heaven to feed the Israelites after they left Egypt. (Exodus 16) He sent it each day; just enough for that day, no more, no less, and instructed them not to gather more than they needed. They trusted Him to provide the next day. In much the same way, Manna House meets the daily needs of its guests; their mission is not to solve all problems, but to meet daily needs: basic hygiene, clean socks, a good cup of coffee and companionship — for that day.
I don’t know why my donut friend offered me the first bite; why didn’t he keep it for himself? He may or may not get another donut any time soon; I can buy a dozen without a second thought. Why was he so willing to share with me?
Maybe a better question is: why are so many of us unwilling to share what we proudly call ours? Our money, our home, our time.
We turn our heads and our hearts away and refuse to give of our abundance, while this man offers the first bite.
Food for thought, isn’t it?
Image above: Orange Spice Chocolate Donut by Quintana Roo