Sometimes Love is Half a Sandwich
I never would have thought it, but one of the best lessons of love I ever learned was taught by a man with half a sandwich.
More than thirty years ago, I spent a few summers on a construction crew. The work was hard, and the days were long. The pay was okay, but like all the students on our crew, I aspired to a career that would be a little less physically demanding. However, mixed in amongst us students were men for whom this job was a livelihood. Jim* was one of these men.
As I got to know him over the summer, I learned that Jim had survived an extremely tough upbringing, with little love to be found. No child should have to experience the trauma he endured, but somehow Jim had managed to come out on the other side with a smile. He lived alone, had no family (at least none with whom he wanted to spend time), and very few friends.
One day, our crew was working a job in downtown Winnipeg. As midday approached, we settled in for lunch just off to the side of the street. Within a few minutes of starting our break, a man who was most likely homeless shuffled up to us. As he asked for food, my workmates and I suddenly found the ground at our feet extremely interesting and pretended we hadn’t heard the guy, but not Jim. Without blinking, he took one half of the sandwich he was holding and offered it to the man. That sandwich was all the food that Jim had with him that day. An awkward silence came over our crew as the man took the sandwich with a simple ‘thank you’ and walked off. Sensing our collective unspoken What did you do that for, Jim just said, “He was hungry.”
Those three words might be the simplest, yet strongest, indictment of my behaviour towards people living in poverty I have ever felt.
To this day those three words might be the simplest, yet strongest, indictment of my behaviour towards people living in poverty I have ever felt. Financially, Jim was barely managing to stay afloat himself, and yet when asked, he gave without fear or hesitation. He gave with love. Jim was the compassionate good Samaritan that day, which meant my colleagues and I were Priests and Levites.
That afternoon was another long hot slog under the sun. Jim survived on water and half a sandwich, yet he never complained. He wasn’t smug. He didn’t do it to teach the rest of us a lesson or make us look bad. He simply acted with love in the moment. Maybe Jim knew hunger – true hunger, not the short-lived pang many of us have felt. Whatever the case, Jim had decided long before that day that he was going to share what he had with others. Period.
I lost touch with Jim after I moved on from the construction crew, but I have never forgotten what he taught me that day. Truly generous people adhere to the choice to live generously, so that when the moment comes, they are ready and willing to give regardless of the specific opportunity that presents itself. I like to think that over the years I have learned to live more generously, but I know I still don’t meet the standard that Jim set that day. Thanks for the lesson, friend.Truly generous people adhere to the choice to live generously...
*Jim is a pseudonym to protect the privacy of the individual
Contributed by Darren Pries-Klassen