When I was in elementary school, my mother would tie up five quarters in a handkerchief on Monday for my week’s lunch money. Yes, lunch was only a quarter. Lunch was on a light green rectangle tray with sections for the different foods. White milk was our only drink option which means there were no drink options. I loved Fridays because it was either a hamburger or a hot dog plus the other stuff. The fish sticks with the dark spots I hated.
I went to school with many poor kids. Some were poorer than others for many different reasons. There were no such things as free or reduced lunches at that time. Many kids brought a sack lunch. I can still smell the scent of banana sandwiches in a brown paper bag.
In the second and third grade, there was a boy in my class from a large and poor family. He would line up with me at lunch and I would get an extra fork. I would eat what I wanted, slide the plate over, and he would clean it up.
I’m not sure how he and I came up with that arrangement. You may read that account and think I was some little southern angel. I look back with some regret. I was moved somewhat with concern for him but not enough to buy his lunch. I didn’t have many extra quarters.
If I could go back, I would have collected quarters at church or from family every week to buy his lunch. Why was I okay with him having a few tablespoons of pinto beans, kernel corn, and half-eaten square of cornbread? He never ate half of my dessert or drank any milk but got most of the fish sticks.
For the past thirty years or so, I have been collecting quarters to feed the poor. We have fed a few. Many of you have helped me—thank you! I thank you for your concern and response. Jesus said the poor would be with us always and we would have ample opportunity to help the poor.
Some poor are suffering from self-inflicted wounds. Some are poor because of addiction. Some children go hungry because their parents are “sorry” (southern term for lazy and irresponsible), yet the kids are still hungry. Some people are poor from sickness, lack of good opportunities, or other reasons. I would give the devil a biscuit if he looked hungry!
I have given poverty some thought but I do not have a good solution for it. At one point, I thought I needed to become an expert on poverty and the solution to it. It remains a blur in my mind and a burr under my saddle. So, I continue to collect quarters for lunch money.
Every week we feed hundreds of people in some of the poorest corners of the world. I do not congratulate myself or our organization for this. We only scratch the surface of the poor. We just collect quarters for lunch and slide our plate over. I am thankful for what we can do.
It never seems to be enough. Every time I go to a third world country, I feel like the disciples who looked into the basket with five loaves and two fish, and then lifted their eyes to see the multitude. I look away from both, to catch the eyes of Jesus, slide my plate over, and collect quarters.
Jesus said the second greatest commandment was, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31 NKJV). That sounds great on a greeting card but hard to put into practice when you see the multitude.
Jesus said, “I was hungry, and you gave Me food” (Matthew 25:35a NKJV). When we feed the “least of these” we are feeding Jesus.
Jesus is hungry! Slide your plate over and give me a quarter.
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt
Matthew 25:34-40 NKJV
(34) Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
(35) for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
(36) I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
(37) “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
(38) When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?
(39) Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
(40) And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’