Yesterday, my life was blessed by a random act of bread.
I was in rehearsal, giving a few final notes before we began our run-through, when Andi Pitcher Davis walked into the theater, carrying a large warm loaf of Mormon whitebread. It was round and brown and smelled delicious; later, as my cast and I dug in, it tasted even better than it smelled. Burnt into the top crust was this: Fountain Bread. This, I recognized as a sly and witty comment on my recent post on Ayn Rand. The Fountainhead, Fountain Bread? I got the joke, and loved it, both the bread and the witticism burned in its crust.
I had never previously in my life met Andi. She’s a charming and delightful woman, who enjoys performing random acts of bread for people in our community she likes, or admires, or anyway thinks would appreciate it.
And driving home from the rehearsal, I saw a homeless family waiting outside a grocery store. I pulled over, emptied my wallet. Paying it forward.
The loaf was huge. My cast and I all ate our fill, and then I took the rest home with me, and my wife and daughter and I had huge chunks of it, spread with butter and jam and peanut butter. This morning I had some more for breakfast, and we’re still less than half-way finished. Talking about it my wife thought it would go well with our family recipe for Basque Soup. She’s at the store now, buying sausage for the soup, and we’ll have it tonight for dinner with the bread.
In a Facebook chat with Andi, she wrote: “That’s what I do. I make bread — hot Mormon Whitebread — and take it to people who inspire — over 300 of them so far. It’s the performance art of Feeding a Culture.” Andi has a video about her bread which is as lovely as the bread itself.
I think this is the way of the Buddha; performing random acts of kindness, breaking bread with a stranger, connecting through a yeasty, crusted joke. Google ‘Dalai Lama’ and ‘kindness’ and see the quotations from a man whose religion was kindness.
But bread, man, bread’s special, bread’s the staff of life. We break bread as an act of community and friendship–once a week, in Church, we break bread together in fellowship. Bread nourishes.
When I was a missionary, slogging through the snow and ice of northern Norway, we taught a very elderly gentleman who had been a Pentecostal minister prior to investigating Mormonism. Two other elders in my district had tracted him up, and as they approached his home, he saw them through the window, and charged to his door full of righteous indignation, ready to give them what for. He opened the door, and was shocked to find he’d been struck dumb. Asked if he’d like a copy of the Book of Mormon, he signaled that he would. By their next visit, two days later, he’d read it cover to cover four times over, and had become cross-referencing it to his Bible. And he’d recovered his voice.
President Hinckley used to say, to good people of other faiths, that it was never the intention of Mormonism to rob them of anything, merely to add to their own spirituality and witness. Our elderly investigator illustrated the point. He was beside himself with joy, to discover that Jesus, who he loved, had provided the world more words we could read. We asked him once, if the Spirit he felt when he read the Book of Mormon was the same spirit he felt when he read his deeply beloved Bible. And he said “yes, but richer. When I read both books now, the Spirit is richer.”
At one of our visits, his deeply concerned pastor showed up. We had a nice visit. The pastor was baffled at this strange interest in Mormonism taken by a man he’d previously regarded as a mentor. And in frustration, he picked up the Book of Mormon, held it up, and shook it, shouting “what is this? What is this?” And our elderly friend said this–I’ll never forget it. He said “You know, the Children of Israel asked Moses that very question once. They woke up one morning, and this manna stuff was laying around everywhere. And they picked it up, and in confusion they showed it to Moses and said, “‘what is this?’” And what he said to them, I say to you. It is the bread God has given you to eat.”
The bread God has given you to eat. The bread of scripture, the bread of all scriptures from all faiths, as Nephi prophesied:
Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words. . . For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the bookswhich shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
All words, all books, all cultures and societies. The Quran and Bhagavad Gita, the wisdom of Confucius and Lao Tzu, Kant and Hegel, Luther and Zwingli, Calvin and Hobbes, Darwin and Einstein, Dr. King and Malcolm X. Is it possible that they all are bread God has given us to eat?
Meanwhile, I have half a loaf in my kitchen. I was blessed by a random act of bread. My life is richer for it.