Breaking bread in the new year

Breaking bread in the new year

There’s always room at the table.

I’m thinking about food. That’s not unusual for me, but it’s not because I’m hungry. My thoughts are much more random than that.

I’m still giggling about my husband Kirt’s definition of “resourceful” to our son Elijah. They were working on Elijah’s Cub Scout book and when defining resourceful, Kirt said, “Like mom, when she looks into the refrigerator and makes dinner from what she sees.” I think this could be in direct response to the macaroni and cheese that cleaned out all the aging cheeses and several vegetables that blended in.

I am a resourceful cook and 85 percent of the time it is scrumptious, and the other 15 percent develops character. We have an expanding table and it is not uncommon for us to have a crew around it. The kid’s friends know when they eat at our house they don’t have to like the food, but they do have to try it. Folks drop in and our motto is that there is always enough.

[Opinion: In the new year, instead of raking leaves, let’s turn one over]

I like feeding people. My mom is an amazing cook and my grandma was an amazing and resourceful cook so it’s in our DNA. There is something wonderful about cooking that makes me feel like I am bringing order in the chaos and doing something concrete after a somewhat nebulous day as a pastor.

I refuse to show up to lunch meetings without food for the folks present. It’s weird, but I am greatly distracted by my own rumbling tummy that I want to help us all be fully present for the business at hand. It seems like there are all kinds of Jesus-y implications around sharing bread together and I don’t really need to lay all those out.

Six years ago, many of the food pantries and the food bank started meeting monthly to ease some of the tension and misconceptions about assisting with food insecurity. One out of five people in Juneau will be food insecure at some point during the year and seek help through one of the food pantries. There are at least eight food pantries in town and you can find the updated hours on the United Way Southeast Alaska website. Many of the agencies who provide emergency food in Juneau are talking to each other and figuring out how we can fill some of the gaps. We don’t meet monthly anymore, but we still try to check-in at least once a year.

[Finding life in the dirt]

As we begin a new year it is a good time to review our values:

• Improve our community through interconnection of services

• Provide access to sustainable nutritious daily food and distribute surplus food better

• Create opportunities for human connection

That last value is as important as the others. Food is where we often gather and where some experience their greatest loneliness.

There are few things that I feel passionate about: Jesus, family, friends, coffee, ping pong, hiking and food. Maybe not in that order depending on the day. I am willing to stake not only my table, but my life on the fact that there is always room at the table and there is always enough. Sometimes we just need to be more resourceful.

• Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.

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