WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Feeding Ourselves and Each Other

By Liz James

“Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.” 
—Frank A. Clark

I’m not sure those townspeople were being selfish, in the stone soup story.

You probably remember how it goes: when the old woman came into the village and asked for ingredients to make food, everyone said they had nothing. She began boiling a pot of water with a stone in it, and she said, “Oh, I wish I had a little salt”… and someone came forward, shyly, with a tiny bit tucked away in a pocket.

Then she wondered out loud if she could find a few root vegetables—and another person had that. Someone else had a few spoonfuls of rice, and so on, until a glorious soup was made.

We’re taught that this tale is about tricking a meal out of selfish people, but I don’t really think that’s what happened. I mean, if someone asked me if I had a meal to share with them, and I only had a half teaspoon of salt or a the few old vegetables that are always at the back of my fridge, I would say I couldn’t help. I wouldn’t be lying when I said I had nothing to give.

I’d just be wrong.

When we say that there’s nothing we can do, we’re not lying. That phone call we might make, that five dollars we might donate, that quick email of encouragement we might send: these things feel so small that we think that they're the same as having nothing to offer.

The stone soup story isn’t about selfish people. It’s about people who thought they were powerless. It’s about people learning that they had something to offer that would feed themselves and each other.

Grant me the bravery to step forward and offer whatever I have. Grant me the wisdom to see myself as part of something greater. And grant me the compassion to see, and draw out, the gifts that are found in every person.

About the Author

Liz James

Liz James is a member of the Saskatoon Unitarians, on the Canadian prairie. She runs Mirth and Dignity, an organization dedicated to UU humour, which can be found at lizjameswrites.com.


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A person's arm is seen stirring the contents of a large iron cauldron, suspended over a lively fire.

Audio of "Feeding Ourselves and Each Other"

Listen to Liz read her reflection.