“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”

— Mother Teresa

When my oldest sons were little boys and their father was in graduate school, we lived from paycheck to paycheck.  There were few opportunities for frivolous spending; and it took several years away from starving student life before life became a bit more comfortable.  Max and Brett were not indulged the way some of my later children were; and on the rare occasion when the budget allowed for some sort of treat, they truly appreciated it.  I began doing something in those days, partly out of necessity and partly by design.  If I found myself with an extra quarter at the end of my grocery trip, I would buy one chocolate bar.  As I unpacked the grocery bags, I would think about which of my boys needed a lift the most.  I would hand one of them the chocolate bar and say, “Here.  I had a little extra money this week, and I thought you might like this.  I would turn to my other son and say, “I’m sorry I only had enough for one.  It will be your turn another time.”

What happened, without fail, was that the boy who owned the candy would open it, break it in half, and hand half of his chocolate to his brother.  They did it every single time.  It was not the sharing of excess out of obligation; it was a pure act of love and generosity from one brother to another — just because it seemed like the right thing to do.  Think back to your own childhood.  Who doesn’t have a memory of breaking an ice cream sandwich in half and sharing it with a friend who had no money when the ice cream truck came through the streets?  Children have a depth of love that motivates selfless giving.  Maybe they simply trust that their own needs will be met, and they don’t weigh the cost of giving against the worry that there might not be another chocolate bar tomorrow.

When do we lose that ability to trust?  When do we limit our love and stop our hearts from leaping ahead of us and meeting the need of another human being?  When do we decide that we should store up excess just in case tomorrow finds us wanting something and unable to obtain it?  Children seem to possess a sort of wisdom about these things.  Mother Teresa tells us that we should not worry if we feel unable to feed a hundred people — just feed one.  Which one of us could not cut our sandwich in half and share it with a friend and still feel satisfied and fed?  Which one of us should not be embarrassed when we think of how much we possess and how little it might take to make a difference in another life?

We are not asked to do the impossible; we are called to do what is right.  No matter how little we might have today, we always have something to spare — something to share.  Whatever your chocolate bar might be, break it in half — share it with your brother — just because it is the right thing to do.

“We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”

— Mother Teresa