There is a story called Stone Soup that is often read to children to teach them how to share. But I think it may be more appropriate for adults. The story can serve well as an “un-training” from the fear and scarcity mindset so prevalent in our society today. This is the mindset that posits that a lack of generosity is often the responsible adult choice. It is not.
The details of Stone Soup, an old folk tale found in different traditions, vary, but the essence is the same: strangers arriving in a town with only an empty pot commence to make a stone soup. As they pour water over the stones in the pot, they explain how wonderful their soup will be—of course, it would be better if it had a bit of onion. One townsperson who was afraid to share brings over an onion and into the pot it goes. Again, the strangers, stirring their soup, say how delicious it will be—of course, it would be better if it had a carrot or two. Another townsperson thinks he can spare some carrots. These, too, go into the pot. And on it goes. As the strangers stir their soup, they keep saying how tasty it will be—of course, it would be better if there were a cabbage, a potato, some celery, some greens. And one by one, the townspeople turn to the their larders and find something to contribute. At the end, the whole town shares in the feast that their sharing has created.
What would our community look like if we made stone soup each day? Could the making of stone soup transform us? I believe it could.
Generosity is not an abstraction. But it is only real when it is expressed, and in its expression we find transformation for our own lives and those of others. Generosity is giving more than is required. It is receiving more than we deserve. Generosity keeps us from thinking small. Generosity is a reflection of God, from whom all generosity comes.
When we give, we are acting in the image of God. When we give, we serve as a lubricant for reconciliation, justice, and peace. Now more than ever, when so many people are hurting, whether it is from horrific storms or deep-seated fears of a legal system that is often blind to compassion or a prejudice that continually denies the full rights of humanity to some individuals, the world needs our generosity. The world is crying for us to show up for the needs of its people.
When considering our own acts of generosity, it is important to remember that what we give is ultimately a spiritual decision, not a financial one. Let us remember this in the weeks to come as we are asked to respond to the needs of our church, our community, our nation, and our world. Let us make stone soup.