My family hosted a Third-World missionary friend this past month. The young priest rested from his tough labors and enjoyed family life and English language immersion. Back home, he serves a multi-ethnic mission on the Bay of Bengal and English is a bridge between peoples.
The day I saw Fr. Varghese bite off the end of a chicken bone, chew it into tiny bits and swallow, I couldn’t contain my surprise and awe. I taught him a new phrase: “You are blowing my mind.”
Father told us he had learned from childhood to “chew bones” for the nutritious marrow. Having grown up in a poor Catholic family of the “Untouchable” class – the lowest socio-economic group in India – he never developed a taste for refined sugar. He fully savored the rare meat and meat bones that found their way to his plantain leaf “plate.” He had also visited the dentist just once his entire life, for a mouth infection last year. His teeth are beautiful, white and strong.
One day at a family home, a teen son walked in with a bag of french fries he had bought with his own money.
“Might we have a fry?” I called out.
The teen shared a fry, and then retreated to enjoy the rest in peace. Fr. Varghese’s eyes widened, then he grinned and took his head into his hands. He recalled his newly learned American phrase.
That is ”blowing my mind!” he laughed.
The young snacker had shared a french fry – exactly one – and then kept the rest for himself.
“Father, you don’t have the same concept of “mine” in your culture, do you?” I asked.
No, he agreed. Poor people shared everything. When Fr. Varghese was a boy, his father would sometimes stretch the budget to buy a little meat, but would always share the treat with neighbors. He gained a reputation in the village as a good and generous man.
There’s a classic way to trap a monkey, Fr. Varghese reminded us. Put something the monkey wants into a pot with a narrow neck, and the greedy monkey will grab the prize. That captures him since he won’t let go of his treasure, even though he can now not remove his enlarged fist from the pot.
Are we like that monkey, tightly grasping what is “mine?” Or do we gratefully acknowledge that all we have is really God’s and at His disposal?
Back in his former assignment in rural Yeleswaram, India, Fr. Varghese’s congregation of day laborers would process to the altar with gifts of rice and fruit at the time of the offertory during Mass. Father depended on those gifts for his daily meals, and shared the food with the hungry. It’s good his people understood that their resources were theirs to share.
So, let’s pray not to be greedy monkeys. If we open our fists, God will help us cast material and spiritual goods to others in a nourishing shower, as He wills. The ricochet effect, of course, is that the more we give, the more our lives will be filled with joy.
See all of our World View Wednesdays posts!
© Marianna Bartholomew 2015
Image © Marianna Bartholomew 2015. All rights reserved.