Brown Bags & Big Tables

“Maurice looked at me and asked a question. ‘If you make me a lunch,’ he said, ‘will you put it in a brown paper bag?’…

‘Okay sure. But why do you want it in a bag?’

‘Because when I see the kids come to school with their lunch in a paper bag, that means someone cares about them. Miss Laura, can I please have my lunch in a paper bag?’

I looked away when Maurice said that, so he wouldn’t see me tear up. A simple brown paper bag, I thought. To me, it meant nothing. To him, it was everything.”

The author teared up when she heard that, and I teared up when I read it while flying the other day. After a cursory reading of the leaflet, I purchased the book An Invisible Thread but had very little expectation that it would be the kind of book that I wouldn’t want to put down.

The true story follows the beautiful intersection of a wealthy, fast-paced New York saleswoman in publications and a young African American panhandler she meets on the street corner. Over weekly dinners at McDonald’s the two form an unlikely friendship that ends up saving both of them in powerful ways.

At another point in the story, after having taken Maurice out for a day in the suburbs with her sister and their family, I found tears rolling down my face yet again.

” ‘So what did you like best about my sister’s house?’ I asked him on the car ride home.

‘The big table,’ he said right away.

‘The table? The dining room?’

‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘I liked that everyone just sat around and talked.’

Then he said, ‘Miss Laura, some day when I grow up, I’m gonna have a big table like that for me and my family. I want to sit around and talk just like they do.'”

Brown bags and big tables. These were the things that most impacted Maurice from his relationship with Laura. It wasn’t the steak dinners at Hard Rock Cafe or the new sweatpants or the alarm clock so that he could get himself to school on time, nor was it going to a Met’s game or receiving his first Christmas and birthday presents at the age of twelve. It was the simple things that changed the trajectory of his life.

In a country, in a culture, in an economic class chock full of little luxuries and creature comforts and extravagances, I can get lost in planning summer camps, thinking of developmental educational adventures and saving to buy special gifts to show my children love.

I need to be reminded daily that the commonplace, every day, unnoticed things leave a far more deep impression on my children and their lives and values than do the extraordinary, momentous things.

Our culture and our ambitious flesh constantly tell us, “Go big or go home,” yet the Bible tells us of a God who counts the number of the sparrows that fall to the ground, a king who remembers being given cup of cold water.

“For who has despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10). Though posed millennia ago, this question sears me to the core. The answer, all too often, is “I do.”

But a day of small things can add up to a week of small things can become a lifetime of small things, which in Christ’s gracious eyes, is no small thing.

Lord, may we be the kind of people who walk faithfully in the small things, trusting that you see, hear and know every cup of cold water, every lunch made, every prayer prayed, every tiny investment made into the lives of others. photo-9

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