News reports about loaves of bread shared from a delivery truck with stranded motorists on ice-covered Interstate 95 in Virginia warmed the hearts of many, including Father Jim Vrba. The
retired diocesan priest shared the story while celebrating daily Mass on Jan. 5 at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire. The story, he said, reminded him of the Gospel reading for the previous day, Mark’s telling of the miracle in which Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 people.
Jesus’ disciples balked at first when he instructed them to give the people something to eat. Then they distributed the meager offering they collected after Jesus transformed it into more than enough for everyone to eat. Two millennia later, a wife and husband became Jesus’ modern-day disciples, distributing bread to the hungry crowds — stranded motorists like themselves — looking out for others and themselves.
Casey Holihan and her husband, John Noe, saw a Schmidt Bread Company truck a few cars ahead of them and called the company to ask about sharing bread with the hungry crowds on the interstate. Chuck Paterakis, one of the owners of H&S Bakery, which operates Schmidt Baking Company, returned the couple’s call and said yes to their request. With the help of the truck driver and other motorists, the couple distributed around 300 loaves of bread (Washington Post, Jan. 4, 2022).
Jesus’ compassion for the crowd to whom he ministered led him to perform a miracle — multiplying five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 people, and there were leftovers! Paterakis’ compassion for the hungry crowd led to a miracle, in my mind. In the midst of a miserable situation, where people lacked the necessities of life for more than 24 hours in some cases, their fellow companions on the journey reached out to one another. Community superseded individualism. Human need came ahead of political views and hot-button issues. Compassion replaced suspicion. The antibody of common good overcame the virus of indifference.
Less than charitable behavior probably took place on I-95, described as one of the busiest travel corridors in the U.S., after a snowstorm caused accidents and a traffic nightmare after the start of the new year. Less than charitable behavior probably took place among the crowds nourished physically and spiritually by Jesus. But at this place in time, when all of us long for love, to be understood, to be appreciated and respected, the bread truck story provides one sign of hope that God lives and walks among us.
We need one another, and not just in times of misery. If we have learned nothing else from this ongoing pandemic, it is that we are not in control. We depend on God for everything that sustains us on earth, and God equips his sons and daughters — each of us in our own way and collectively as a community — to make life sustainable. A young married couple’s compassionate response to suffering reminds us once again, that God makes miracles happen today.