I don’t know about you, but I love pasta. Not that my buddy Matt is a stellar cook or anything, but when he starts throwing together noodles with some white sauce, a bit of bacon and a few vegetables, I get pretty unnecessarily excited, especially on this particular evening. Matt had left Kansas City less than a year before to study for his PhD at the University of Dallas, and this was the first time that my friends Moira, Steph, and I had been able to visit him. We cheerfully set his second-hand plates on the coffee table in his little apartment living room, and settled in on the floor for our feast.
As we approached the end of our meal, I noticed that, per usual, I was the last one still eating. I also noticed, to my suspicion, that my friends were suppressing laughter every time that I took a bite. Being visually impaired, I’m not totally unused to people laughing at things that I don’t see, but it got to a point that I had to ask. “What in the world is so funny?” At that, they couldn’t help themselves. They burst out openly into laughter. “Do you like the pasta?” they asked. “Oh no. What did you guys do to my food?” “We didn’t do anything to your food! It’s just… you finished your pasta about five minutes ago. You’ve been eating Steph’s.” “What?” Apparently after every bite I took, Stephanie, who was notorious for not finishing her meal, would sneak a bite of her pasta onto my plate without me noticing. That meant, while I was chatting, and eating, and carrying on, I had finished my own meal as well as most of hers. I can’t help but love teasing as well as seconds on pasta, so I was pretty okay with the situation, but of course I had to give them crap about using my blindness to their advantage. Fortunately, they know me too well to feel bad about that.
I’ve come to realize that many of my favorite moments of fellowship involve eating, and this hasn’t changed since living and working with JSC. But I’ve been particularly struck by the experience that comes before the meal, that of fixing my plate. For our retreats, we fix our plate’s cafeteria style, walking through a line and taking our portion of salad or chicken fingers or tacos. Not being able to see the food very well, I have always needed help with this process. I have asked my teammates once or twice to assist me, but for the most part, they just do it without thinking. We walk through the line, they tell me the options and then divvy out the portions, always taking care that they give me plenty. And when we’ve finished, they guide me to our table.
Inspired by this simple act of charity, I have been recently thinking about what the world might look like if you and I took this as our model. So often, I think we become self-focused. We want to make sure that we get our fill. We might get distracted by our own hunger and forget that the person next to us is also in need. At times when we do look at our neighbor’s plate, we find ourselves comparing it to our own, getting upset if they have more than we do. What if we flipped this on its head? What if instead of starting with ourselves, we looked at our neighbor’s plate first, not to compare the two, but to make sure that each of our neighbors is taken care of? What if this became so much of a habit that we would just do it without thinking? What would the world look like if you and I became this sort of companion, and that inspired others to do the same? May the Lord our God teach us this type of generosity and self-forgetfulness so that one day we might all join Him, alongside one another, for the eternal wedding feast.
Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us.