A Community of Givers

Bread, bread, bread

Three loaves of pain a la Suzanne

14 French Jacos

30 some odd scones

Gave my loaf to Dr. David, who has been limping lately… The rest of the loaves? TBD

Today our women’s group at church gathered in my kitchen while I whirled around in a floury cloud. Bread was in and out of the oven–we would talk now and then about sourdough starter, or how to mold a boule… I had wanted the women to be able to mix dough themselves, too, that was planned for the middle hour, but you just can’t do it all. Next time, Ladies, or just give me a call and stop by!

In that middle time, when the oven was full of bread and my mixing and molding duties were temporarily done, I tried to highlight a few qualities in Saint Brigid that have inspired me–in the hope to inspire them. Brave and charitable, Saint Brigid was a woman who wasn’t afraid of breaking out of the mold. No nuns in Ireland? I’ll be the first. No abesses? Why not start my own monastery? No ground to build on? I’ll just ask the king and see what miracles happen. He could only say no. No bread? Let’s pray–God surely won’t leave us to be hungry. He clothes the lilies, doesn’t He? She was fiercely brave–an Irish heroine, who was so devoted to Christ that she saw His mark everywhere. In every beggar, in every beast, in every oak and ash and stalk of wheat.

As I looked around that room I saw whispers of Saint Brigid in all of them. In the playfulness of Jan, in the tenacity of Seraphima, in the creativity of the Carla’s, the leadership of Kristin and Wendy, and the tenderness of  Shirley. (And that’s just mentioning a few…) Brigid herself developed all these virtues by being wholly committed to Christ–the giver of Virtue, the giver of Life. I really didn’t need to give them an inspiring talk at all…They are already professional givers. They serve dinner to those ill, reach out to those who are lonely. They are women who are always behind the scenes making, baking, serving… giving…

We baked and baked–you can see by the schedule above– and when they left I handed them loaves to take to those they encounter–to give away as I’ve been seeking to do. I’m looking forward to their stories and hoping they’ll come here to share! So, this blog is to be written by them–can’t wait to hear how their afternoon adventures unfolded.

Ladies?

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10 thoughts on “A Community of Givers

  1. Ah Jane! You are too sweet. It was so great to be your beautiful house enjoying your exuberance! Here’s my tale:
    I told you the first person I thought of was Omedi. He is a professor at Westmont, and lives on the other side of our loop in faculty housing. He is moving into the house next door and I thought it would make a great house warming gift. But when I got home, I saw no action over there, and time slipped away, and….
    We were already late for a pre-Vespers meeting! I thought, “I know! I’ll give it to Carrie on my way down the hill. She has done SO much for me, and is like a birth mother for Catechesis in this region. She definitely deserves Jane bread!” We stopped. I gave her the candle holder she needed. We got to talking….and I forgot the bread!
    Off to church. I thought, surely we could find someone out here to give it to. Our church is surrounded by needy people literally sleeping on the streets. No shortage of folks to share with, right? Wrong. It’s been raining. The temperature is dropping, and the wind is rising. No one’s out here. They’ve all gone to the shelters. I’m so frustrated!
    After Vespers I decided I would give the bread to Obediah. Obediah has been one of those behind-the-scenes givers for a long time. Every week, since the Level III atrium moved into the St. Brigid office, he has been hauling the big heavy armchairs out so we can make room for the kids and materials. It’s a huge job! He does it every week, without fail. (I think maybe he forgot once very early on, but it’s no matter!) The funny thing is, when I went in to leave the bread for him (because the lights were off and I thought he wasn’t there) he popped up from behind his computer screen and smiled: “You’re the second person to bring me this bread. Carla, the Flower Lady, gave me one too.” “Well, you deserve it,” I said. “Thanks for helping me every week with the chairs. And if you can’t use, I know you’ll give it to someone who can.”
    So I finally was able to give the bread to someone I really wanted to bless. I only wished I could say “I made this bread just for you!” So I’ll have to learn the alchemy of perfect jaco making sometime soon. Thanks for the day of blessing, Jane! Love you!

  2. I just wanted to say what a blessing this experience was! I did participate in the “bread give-away,” but I don’t want to go into specifics (for the protection of the bread receiver.) I went into this task with thought of, “people might think I’m weird if I randomly hand them a loaf of bread…” Despite what I was thinking, I went to State Street in search of someone special to give my bread to, and a miracle happened. God truly led me to the person who really needed this gift. I feel God used me to make a difference in someone’s life, and I have never felt more humbled. Thank you St. Brigid and Jane for inspiring me with your giving hearts!

  3. I was blessed with two loaves (one for myself and my family and the other to give away). As I was driving home, ideas about who to give my bread to swirled in my head. I really wanted my three year old to help me, but had very limited time since I had to finish cleaning my house for our house blessing that evening. I immediately thought of my neighbor who is a single mother of two, but she was gone, so I had to think of someone else and figure out when to do it.

    My husband, son, and I partook of our loaf which was amazing. I think my three-year-old ate half of it! Then I had to get to cleaning and cleaned right up to the moment the priest arrived to bless our little home, so I didn’t get to giving away the other loaf before-hand.

    After our house blessing, we went to dinner with the priest and his wife; when we got home it was the boys’ bedtime. I also realized my baby wasn’t feeling well (he had a fever), so all hope of getting out to give my bread away was gone…or so I thought. I felt defeated. I couldn’t even give my bread away!

    However, my husband was on his way to a party for an Canadian man who had recently become a U.S. Citizen and so I figured we could make a present of it to him. It wasn’t my ideal, but at least someone would have the bread. I didn’t expect much, but my husband came home very excited explaining that the bread was a hit.

    Unbeknown to me, the man we gave the bread to was of Indian decent. Indian culture, like Arab and Jewish cultures see bread as extremely special. My husband said he “lit up”, sincerely thanked him for the bread and was very protective of it, at one point barking at some people he thought were trying to take it. My husband said he kept mentioning the bread and thanking my husband for it for the duration of the party.

    We were both amazed at how blessed this man felt by receiving the bread. It was a wonderful experience which has me really thinking about ways in which I can give to others in a similar fashion.

    Jane–thank you so much for the wonderful experience…I am inspired!

  4. Jane, Thanks so much for opening yourself and your warm, beautiful home to us ladies. What a wonderful, sharing time we had! The delicious bread and the wonderful encouraging stories.

    I was praying and trying to figure out who to give this lovely loaf of bread to. I thought of a neighbor woman, well… she lives three miles from me, but then I suppose we are all neighbors.

    This lonely 80 year old woman lost her husband many years ago and they never had children. It was wonderful to brighten her day by giving her the loaf warm loaf of bread. Her comment to me was, “What? A warm loaf of bread?”

    I know that this act of love and kindness blessed her.

  5. What a beautiful Saturday morning spent at your very warm and inviting home, Jane! Thank you for your hospitality and your wonderful teaching of how to bake bread. It was wonderful to hear about the life of St. Brigid. I enjoyed the morning so much that I was pretty bummed to have to leave.

    When I left your home with a Jaco, I planned to give it to the family who we were picking up our new puppy from. God had another plan, however! Which reminded me to be open to God’s plan always. There was a homeless man standing at the corner of the Gelson’s parking lot. I turned into the lot and had to do a quick turnaround. My passenger side window is not working so I rolled down the backseat window and said to the homeless Vietnam Vet, “Excuse me, sir”. He couldn’t hear me because the back window was my way of reaching out to him. He finally did hear me and accepted the bread graciously.

    I honestly have to say that it makes me feel nervous to randomly give like that but what I came away feeling was humility and a feeling of being blessed. I learned that I can give in so many ways. Thanks Jane!

  6. Good Monday morning, Jane:
    I want to thank you for inviting me into your wonderful, comfortable home. A large part of the comfort was definitely the smell of bread baking in the oven. I haven’t baked bread in a long time and although I wasn’t there early enough to witness the demonstration, I certainly enjoyed heaing about St. Patrick and St. Brigid and shared in the excitement when the bread was done and served. It was delicious!

    The whole experience reminded me of baking bread when my three children were young. It was an all day labor then so I’m glad to have some new recipes some of which might be a little speedier. I remember being a little frustrated when the bread fresh from the oven was instantly devoured….leaving nothing to show for my labors. I soon realized that the time spent together mixing, kneeding, waiting and finally enjoying the warm bread was the real accomplishment. In future baking sessions I doubled the recipe so that there was one loaf for immediate eating and one more to last perhaps until dinner or the next day.

    I bet if I asked my now grown children about those cooking sessions in my small kitchen, they would remember them and be able to tell some good stories. Those memories don’t fade. And I am guessing that neither does the memory of someone who receives a loaf of bread from a stranger. What a wonderful way to make a difference!

    Thanks again for a lovely morning!

  7. Jane, you’re such an inspiration, and being in your charming home is always a wonderful treat. Thank you for all the preparation for Saturday–I can’t imagine how many hours you invested in getting all those loaves ready to bake at different times. Amazing.

    Having thought about my next door neighbor, I took a loaf with me. This neighbor is a divorced man with many struggles. To be truthful, he has not been the easiest person to love over these years for a number of reasons, but God has continued to whisper in my heart that this man needs my love and prayers.

    I have made some small steps toward him, always received with such gratitude. This time was no different! When he came to the door, he was in his robe–he was ill. I was so delighted to be able to hand him this lovely, warm loaf of bread from our church women.

    Later in the day, I was visiting with another neighbor and she asked me what I’d been up to. I had the opportunity to tell her about our lovely time in Jane’s kitchen and the opportunity to give the loaves away. I shared about giving the loaf to our other neighbor, and she was inspired herself to consider extending kindness to him. So I could see that this little loaf blessed more than one person today.

    Thanks, Jane. You’re a blessing!!!

  8. Dear Jane – what a lovely morning for baking bread! Rainy and cool, breezy and bright. . .a fire crackling in the fireplace as we walked into your cozy home. It was just a wonderful time together to learn some baking tips, to be inspired and encouraged by the life of dear St. Brigid, and the challenge to go out and see who God wanted us to meet with our loaf of bread.

    When I returned home with my wonderful round loaf of Jaco, I began to pray and ask God to bring to mind whom He wanted to receive this lovely gift. Lots of people started to flood my mind and I thought “Oh dear, I only have one loaf!”. Well, silly me – of course the loaf was big enough to slice off big hunks for a bowl of soup or a big salad. So, that’s what I did.

    One to Obadiah, the gentle soul who always offers to help with decorating and cleaning the church for the different feast days. Another, to Phoebe, a dear friend and super helper with festal decorating. And one to Fay, who wanted to come to our gathering but needed to attend to family things. That left a quarter of the loaf for me and my new roommate, Valerie ~ perfect, I thought!

    Then on Sunday, as I was driving home after some shopping at Vons and La Cumbre, I drove passed a homeless man standing on the corner him. I thought to myself. . .the bread. I dashed home, cut off a big hunk of the loaf, wrapped it up with some other small food stuffs and hurried back to give the man my offering. When I told him there was fresh baked bread, he looked puzzled. . .then broke into a big smile.

    Afterwards, I looked at what was left of the loaf and saw that there was still enough Jaco for Val and me to have with a simple dinner. Perfect!

    Thanks Jane for sharing your baking talent with us and your story of how St. Brigid has inspired you. I confess that I was looking forward to being a floury mess, so I will have to take you up on your offer to stop by on your next baking day.

    Love, Carla Mary

  9. These stories are amazing… Thank you all for sharing your adventures with us! They prove how so often we set out in one direction but then end up in a completely different place–handing out a blessing to someone we never thought about…

    You all inspire me with renewed energy to keep giving…

  10. Well, dear Jane, it was a delight to spend the morning with you. My story is small and quiet, but it brought me joy. I went to Trader Joe’s after our gathering and there was a man out front with a sign asking for food. After placing my very full grocery bags in the back of the car (I’m just now realizing that St. Brigid would have given him the bread AND the 4 bags of groceries), I went back with the loaf of bread. I was able to say, “This bread was just baked this morning…with lots of love. Enjoy.” His response was “God bless you,” and I replied with the same.

    I believe God did indeed bless both of us in the exchange.

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