Abundance from Scarcity

Abundance from Scarcity

Almost every time I fly, I think of a story I once heard Parker Palmer, a Quaker theologian and author, talk about when he witnessed how people pull together to create abundance out of scarcity. According to him, it happened years ago when he traveled by airplane from Chicago to Denver, a time before the airport security and screening we have now when you could carry whatever you wanted in your briefcase or purse onto the airplane. The airplane had just pulled away from the gate, but they kept going around in circles. He could tell something was wrong because they kept moving further away from the runaway.

Then the pilot came on the intercom: “I have bad news. A storm from the west is exactly where we are headed; Denver is shut down. There are no alternatives. So, we’ll be staying here for a few hours. That’s the bad news. The really bad news is that we have no food on board.” Keep in mind that this was in the days when the airlines served meals but not snacks.

Everyone groaned. Some passengers became angry. But then, Palmer said, one of the flight attendants stood up in the aisle and took the mic. “We’re sorry, folks, but I have an idea.

We have a couple of empty bread baskets up here, and we’ll pass them around. Everybody put something in the basket. I know some of you have brought a little snack along, just in case – peanut butter crackers, candy bars. Some of you have Rolaids, Life Savers, or chewing gum. And if you don’t have anything edible, you have a business card, picture of your kids, or bookmark. The thing is, I hope everybody puts something in the basket. And then we’ll reverse the process. We’ll pick the baskets up at the back of the plane and pass them around again, and everybody can take out what they need.”

Palmer witnessed a shift as people began to focus on what they had to give. The complaining and griping stopped as people started rooting in pockets, handbags, and briefcases. Some stood up, retrieved luggage from the overhead racks, and pulled out boxes of candy, a salami, Italian sausage, cheese, crackers, and a bottle of wine.  (Again, remember this was when you could do that].

By helping to change their focus, that flight attendant transformed a group of anxious people focused on their needs, deprivation, and scarcity into a gracious community, sharing and, in the process, creating an abundance of sorts.

How often do we get focused on what we don’t have instead of what we do?  Imagine what could happen if we shifted our focus and joyously shared what we do with each other. We can radically transform the world around us when we offer even the smallest gift of kindness, compassion, and love.  And even if we think we do not have what is needed, what is needed is still at hand.  It will be enough, and sometimes it will be more than enough.

Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister