People here share whatever food they have. It may seem like a small thing, but to me it was a big deal because it is so different than the culture I come from. For example, in the U.S. if you went on a trip with several other people, it would be normal to bring a few snacks for the ride (something small like an apple or a bag of chips). You might offer someone a few chips but then eat the rest yourself. And that person would not be offended if you ate in front of them, because they understand that you bought the food for yourself. However, here in Ecuador the generous spirit of people is so strong that everyone offers you some of whatever they are eating.
On our bus ride to Peru, I came prepared with some bread from the bakery, a small chocolate bar, and a bag of chips. I had planned it carefully so that I would have enough food to sustain me throughout the whole 13-hour overnight trip. About an hour after leaving Quito, people started to get snacks out. Everyone offered me some of their food – even if it was just a small bag of crackers. It is just normal here that when you eat, everyone around you should get to partake as well. People didn’t seem to care if they only ate 1 piece of the entire baguette that they brought. The rest was passed around to share, without the expectation of it being returned. This act of generosity really touched me, and I realized how selfish we Americans can be, eating in front of others when they don’t have anything. I then offered my neighbors the rest of my small loaf of bread, and my seat buddy the other half of my chocolate bar. Now when I buy something, I will always think of with whom I can share it.
I have been so accustomed to just providing for my own needs, but there is something truly beautiful in sharing with a gracious heart. I needn’t have worried that I would have enough food for my journey, because the rest of my group was so willing to provide for me as well. Seeing this generosity has inspired me to think more about others, not just myself. How often do I walk down the street and see a homeless or hungry person but walk on by? How many times have I not tipped a taxi driver or hotel maid in an attempt to be frugal? Maybe I need to trust the Lord more with providing, and be more generous with what I have. At times I think I need to buy this pair of shoes or that ice cream cone, when that money could be better spent helping someone in need.
Sharing what we have can be a powerful way to show love to someone. And even when the thing we share is something small, God can use it to bless them in big ways. Just like the boy with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, an act of generosity can overflow with abundance when we put the needs of others above our own.