I remember to this day my mother’s voice telling us that we should finish our food. Nothing should be wasted. Nothing! We would make sure that not even a grain of rice was left on the plate. Well, we did not have a lot, and we did not have many options to choose from. You just ate what you were given. That made it easy for us not to experience the paralysis of freedom some suffer today because of many choices!
But there is more reason why nothing should be wasted: because food is a gift from God and the fruit of hard labor. Every sweat of those who worked on the food before it reached our plate counts so much and should be appreciated by not wasting it. Going to the farm and cultivating yam, cassava, vegetables and raising livestock at home were opportunities my parents used all the time to teach us about the importance of hard work and the fruits of labor. They would always tell us that we should be grateful to God that we have our land to cultivate and the good health and strength to do so. It would make no sense to waste the food after all that work. Secondly, we have to share the fruits of the labor with those who do not have much. For this reason, my parents would always add extra to the pot in case someone passes by or visits. Their words ring within me all the time, especially when I see how much food is thrown away in this country! After feeding the crowd, Jesus made sure that every scrap of leftovers was collected so that “nothing should be wasted”! I wonder what the apostles would do with the leftovers! The bible does not tell us, but I am sure they took them to those who were not even there but who needed food to eat. God does not waste anything, even though He gives us everything in abundance!
There is also another layer of meaning of not being wasteful. As my parents taught us about hard work, they would give us examples of men and women who wasted their lives doing nothing: those who were not “useful to themselves”, literally translating. My Dad would say that was the biggest curse any person could bring upon his or her family. He would conclude by saying: “hard work has its own reward” and my mother would add: “working hard and being useful to yourself and to the world is the best way to thank God for being born in this world and in this family.” I feel like everywhere I go, I carry my Mom and Dad with me, and hear their words all the time. They wanted us to thank God for giving us gifts, and to make them proud for being our parents. Nothing should be wasted, and this includes food, time, talents, and opportunities in life!
It is often so hard to understand how and why some choose to waste the countless opportunities they have in life by settling down in drugs, drinking, waywardness or simply being lazy! They surrender themselves to lethargy and adopt an easy lifestyle with the least resistance to trials and challenges. The creative genius of their imagination is rendered sterile because there is no self-motivation to develop and give the best of oneself to the world and to God. The existential pain that results from this self-wastefulness often leads to all kinds of symptoms that could be simply described as symptoms of an unlived life. May God grant each of us the grace to be good stewards of all that he has given us so that we can use it to feed the world; not just with physical food but also with food of the soul and spirit, so that nothing can be wasted! Amen