There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread. – Gandhi
In the United States, schools yearly celebrated the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Every year we’d pull out the text from his “I Have A Dream” speech and write about the dreams we had for our own futures. Or watch a short movie about him walking in front of snarling dogs. Or read about Gandhi who freed his whole country without war. The fight for civil rights was a good fight that was bravely won many years before I was born. We were all encouraged to be leaders like Rev. King, to say no to injustice and to peacefully do what we knew was right.
The message that I took wasn’t that the good fight had been fought and everything was great now. I believed that the liberation of all peoples, the dream of humanity in harmony, was more than casual inspiration to reflect on once a year or a problem long since solved but an orientation to life.
But most of all, I am a hungry person who could only see spirituality in the form of bread. I had been to so many church services where people prayed for the poor, for the needy, for the broken hearts. I had watched so many people meditate with compassion for all in their innermost thoughts. I had seen so many devotions of people touching their heads to the ground. But I hardly ever saw those meditations and prayers feed the hungry. Rev. King was among the few spiritual leaders who took divinity beyond inspiring prayers – he went to the streets to stop segregation where it was happening. Gandhi gathered up his followers and marched to the sea to deliver an economy to his people that would feed their children.
As a hungry person this was a spirituality I could touch, that delivered people from suffering, something that could actually feed me. I grew up in a violent household, and then in a household where the water, heat and electricity would be shut off. People praying to something I could not see meant little in those times. It was the rabbis and ministers and spiritual leaders who offered my family bread that mattered a lot. Their spirituality actually meant something happened – the word became flesh, in Christian terms.
When I became a Unitarian Universalist, I took to heart that the divinity these legendary figures had was available to me also. I was proud of our history, that our Unitarian icon who wrote Civil Disobedience was who inspired these great spiritual leaders to change the world peacefully. That it was actually an act of courage to put your body on the line and say no more and offer no physical defense to protect what was sacred to you. Our primary source of spiritual knowledge is our experience of the here and now, not the world after we’ve died. Our spiritual heritage does not call us to clasp hands and say “I’ll pray for you” before moving onto the next tragedy, but to stop the tragedies from ever happening again. Sometimes, all we can do is pray, but the prayer means little if our actions or our world is not changed by it.
This is the divinity that is offered to all of us, to everyone, that we can all offer the sacred to each other – especially in the form of bread.