“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
I couldn’t get one of my favorite – and most challenging – life-lessons out of my head during our trip to Haiti last week and then, again, as I was thinking about tonight and Thanksgiving and so much of what the holiday is all about: “Enough is as good as a feast.” It’s a line from Mary Poppins which, frankly, I never remember actually seeing as a child. I only looked it up when one of my seminary professors referred to this moment in the movie like it was something I should just know or remember or understand without much explanation.
Mary Poppins gives this short and sweet response to the children she’s caring for after they clean up their play room before heading out to the park to play. With all of her magic and music or whatever else it was that made her the best nanny ever, Mary Poppins made cleaning up the nursery so much fun that one of the kids asks if they could do it all over again. Her response was, “enough is as good as a feast.” “Enough is as good as a feast.”
Meaning, you can only get a room so clean. You can only put something away, until it’s put away and that is that. Once you’re full, you’re full. Enough is enough is enough. And “enough is as good as a feast.”
And the lesson for me in that is, if we can determine what “enough” for is for ourselves, then we are more likely to be content… happy, even… joyful… grateful, for sure… and more generous, more of the time, as a result. Enough of something – if you know what that is for yourself – is as good as a feast.
And my time in Haiti, is always a reality check for me about what “enough” is in this world and in my life. I’ll tell you what I mean…
When we put word out that we would be giving away shoes one afternoon last week and men, women and children lined up hoping for more shoes than we had to give away, I was reminded that the piles of shoes – in my garage, by my front door, and in my closet – are more than enough.
When we sat down to eat, meal after meal after meal of more food than our Haitian hosts are used to preparing for themselves – and as they waited patiently to eat and to share our leftovers, I was reminded about what “enough” looks like.
As I helped to paint the three rooms of a 600-square-foot house, like this one, meant for a family of 8 or 10, I was reminded about what “enough” can be, if I would let it.
When Michel, a 9-year-old boy who has no parents, no home, who shares a room with some nuns, and who ate my leftovers for a week, shares his care package full of toys and candy and clothes with his best friend, Samuel – I get a new perspective on “enough.”
Now I don’t tell you all of this to rain on our Thanksgiving parade as we prepare to feast and to give thanks and to celebrate the holiday this week with our friends and family and all of our abundance.
I share all of this because when Jeannie Ellenberger suggested a couple of weeks ago that we bless our bowls and serving dishes and bread baskets as a part of our Thanksgiving worship tonight, I remembered something else I learned a long time ago.
Eastern philosophy says the most sacred part of a bowl, or a cup, or a container of any kind, really, is the empty space inside of it. The empty space into which we place things, or from which we take things – the space that has the potential of being filled up or of being emptied – is the most sacred and holy part of a dish or a vessel or a container of any kind.
See this idea, along with the notion that “enough is as good as a feast,” makes me realize how much control we have over our gratitude – and the ways we feel about and fill our selves, our lives and the world around us, too.
When we recognize the sacred, holy nature of the empty vessels in our lives – bowls, dishes, cups, sure – and I would add closets, drawers, wallets, and the square footage of the rooms in our homes – we are able to be more deliberate and faithful; more generous and sacrificial; more thankful and grateful for the ways in which we fill those places. And we can be more deliberate and faithful; more generous and sacrificial; more thankful and grateful, too, for all the ways we are called to empty them out, just the same.
Because enough really is as good as a feast. Full is full is full. Enough is enough is enough. And when we let our faith in God’s grace and provision determine what “enough” looks like for ourselves, in advance of the world’s best efforts to convince us otherwise, we can be truly, genuinely, deeply thankful, and content, and joyful, even – like the birds of the air, like the lilies of the field…
And like Sister Claudette...
...the Mother Superior who cares for our mission trippers in Fondwa, who has been to Indianapolis, who knows how we live, and who feeds us and cleans up after us and who humors us, anyway, with more joy and humility and patience and grace than seems natural.
And like Enel...
...who was proud to send me pictures of his freshly painted three-room, 600 square-foot house, just yesterday.
And like Michel...
...who was as thankful for his gift as he was willing to share it with his friend.
May our Thanksgiving be full of heartfelt gratitude for all the ways God has filled up the sacred, empty vessels in our lives. May we find ways to determine what “enough” looks like for ourselves, for our children, and for our families. And when we do, may we give thanks – and mean it; may we rest in the fullness of what God has already provided; and may we find ways to share, ever more generously, whenever our cups runneth over.
Amen. Happy Thanksgiving.