The concept of loaves and fishes, and fragments of them, is always an important reminder for me. I was doing some religious reading this past weekend, and came across that story in the Bible again. The notion seems like a good one, that just when there seemed to be not enough food to go around, Jesus fed thousands with FRAGMENTS of loaves of bread and fishes, and thousands were fed. Not to get too religious on you, and even if you have no religious beliefs, for me the important word here is “Fragments”, just pieces of loaves and fishes, not whole loaves of bread, and no whole fishes. Life is so simple when we have a feast spread before us, everything tidy, and seemingly abundant, and beautifully served, and obviously enough for everyone who is hungry, but life just isn’t always that tidy, and abundance isn’t always that obvious, sometimes you have to look more closely to realize what you’ve got, and just how far you can stretch it.
Sometimes we don’t have the ‘whole’ of what we think we need, but if we make do with bits and pieces, astonishingly we find that we have more than enough. I find that that concept, of fragments, applies to many, many areas of my life. I wish that my kids still lived at home, full time, but sadly they don’t, and three of them live in other cities. I fly in to see them as often as I can, and always wish that it were for longer. But I’m always astonished to find that even 2 days with them can be so heart warming and fulfilling, that by the time I leave, I have had some very meaningful time with them, some really good times, some important talks, and shared some lovely moments. They are just fragments of time, but they sustain us until the next visit.
Sometimes, I don’t feel I have enough time to complete a project, usually a writing project, or another project with a time deadline. I’m pressed for time, or other things are wrestling for my time. I try to calm down about it and not panic (that’s usually the hardest part). Then I find a few hours here, a couple of days there, spend some late nights on it, find I can carve out a whole weekend…..and suddenly in bits and pieces, I discover that I had the time I needed, and all strung together, the time I wound up with is the time I needed to do the project—–even if that time came in ‘fragments’ and not a single block of time.
In my younger days, when I was struggling, a friend who was out of a job and desperate for money, remembered that she always saved pennies in big mason jars. And she had another jar where she always put the change she would find in the bottom of her handbag. She told me one day that those mason jars full of coins and pennies added up to a lot more than she expected, and she actually managed to live on it for a month or two—-not in luxury surely, but it met her need for the basics. Fragments again, that time in nickels, dime, quarters, and pennies. (Don’t underrate the small stuff!! however small the ‘fragments’).
And even now, when I am suddenly faced with a slew of big unexpected bills at one time (unexpected bills always come in clumps, and just when you don’t want them!!), and I sit groaning over it, I wish a big fat check would come in to cover it. Simple as that. And of course it almost never happens that way. Instead, I get a little check from one place that I didn’t expect, and find I had a little more saved than I thought, and someone pays me for something earlier than planned, and then a refund check comes in unexpectedly, and in the end, in bits and pieces (fragments) I get what I needed. You really can’t under estimate how important the pieces and fragments are, and sometimes they really add up to just what you needed, if you’re willing to be creative about it.
Similarly, sometimes I really miss having a husband, and sharing my life with a partner, a person to discuss things with, to share problems with, help with decisions, a person whose advice you respect, who will be supportive during a tough moment.(And of course fun to be with in the good times). And sure, I would love to see Prince Charming come riding in on a white horse to solve all my problems when I need him to (who wouldn’t?). But at times when I really need it, a friend has surfaced with valuable, practical advice, or an adviser with equally valuable advice, or someone I really didn’t expect to be there for me shows up at just the right moment, or one of my children shows great maturity and kindness and is supportive of me and says something important that helps me. I don’t always get what I need in one person or one big block, but I get it in bits and pieces and all added up, it gives me just what I need at the right time.
I think the practical message for me in that story of the loaves and fishes is not to overlook the fragments in our lives, of time, money, advice, support, affection, friendship. We may not always get everything we need from one source, in one obvious feast. But if you put all the fragments together, you find you have an abundance of all you need. I never under estimate the fragments now, and am always stunned to find that they give me exactly what I need when I add them all up. Don’t forget the fragments!!!! What we need in life isn’t always delivered in whole loaves or whole fishes, sometimes it comes in tiny fragments, and when we add them up—–it is just what we needed.