Author: Bethany May, Diana R. Garland School of Social Work Graduate Student, Ministry Associate and Social Work Intern in Spiritual Life, Missions and Public Life
“Well, well, well, bucket in a well! Just add a little flour and some milk and a little yeast—lordy, why are you trying to measure this? Just throw it in there.” I can still hear my great grandmother speaking this to me in a tone a few notches too high for being inside and a few inches away from my ear. I would be annoyed, but she was right; a cup of flour, a cup of milk, and a little yeast is all you really needed. Well, not the “one cup,” part, I just found over time that was what she probably meant when she told me “just a little bit.” This concoction of ingredients is what has sustained the sourdough that has fed me growing up along with my past 80 years of relatives. Eighty years of kneading and feeding—both the mouths of people and the sourdough itself—has kept me in relation with relatives I have never met. From early mornings with jam and honey, to cinnamon rolls with butter, this sourdough has created memories for me that remain sweet in my mind.
The memories I have made around the sourdough connects me to the memories made around tables I have never seen and among relatives and friends I have never met, but throughout the years we have all benefited from the fruit of the same sourdough. It binds me to the relationships made before me. By building relationships now, we build communities that extend past our own lifetime. Like building relationships, creating sourdough is a tedious process. If you are patient and willing, about five days of babysitting the sourdough starter results in a lifetime supply of sourdough. Maintenance, patience, and feeding is what sustains the dough. You must invest in it to sustain it so that in turn, it can sustain others. This is what sourdough has taught me. I must feed myself grace and love so that in turn, I can show others grace and love that extends beyond myself and my own life.
I may not understand or ever recognize how far love and grace goes when I feed it to others, but my family’s sourdough has made me reflect on how my great-grandmother did not make the sourdough thinking about who it could feed in the future. She made it simply because it was what her family needed in the moment, and in turn it poured out into extended families and fed relatives for the past eighty years. This is the illustration of generosity; this is the illustration of a generous love that is present through the teachings of Jesus. Compassion for the needs of those right now, and being gracious on how we view others, overflows abundantly in ways that lives beyond us. Because it is through the unhistorical acts of you and I right now that are forming, kneading, and refining history in the future.
“Give and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
Luke 6:38 (NASB)