“Monks, if people knew, as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would they allow the stain of miserliness to obsess them and take root in their minds. Even if it were their last morsel, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared it, if there were someone to share it with. But, monks, as people do not know, as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they eat without having given, and the stain of miserliness obsesses them and takes root in their minds.” (Itivuttaka 26, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi)
It may be difficult for us to imagine being hungry, having only one bite of food, and thinking of sharing that bite with someone else in need. All three parts of that scenario are likely to be outside of our experience. But what can we take from this verse? We can notice how we relate to food. Do we eat without thinking? Do we get cranky if we’re served something we don’t like, or if we have to wait longer than anticipated for a meal? When was the last time we actually felt hungry?
When we enjoy food (or anything), are we aware of our good fortune in having enough? Do we remember that there are many people in the world, perhaps not very far away, who face hunger or malnutrition?
A few ways we might share our good fortune are by donating money or food to a local food bank, or by volunteering at Meals on Wheels or at any source of nourishment for those in need. There are also international charities that focus on bringing food and water sustainability to those in dire need – Buddhist Global Relief, for example.
Giving food has a special place in the practice of generosity because it is (along with water) the most essential element for keeping our bodies alive. By giving food, by remembering whenever we eat that others also need to eat, we strike at the heart of our own greedy tendencies.
Conquer stinginess with giving (from Dhp 223, translated by Gil Fronsdal)
Sharing our time and attention are also important ways of giving, and provide similar benefits to our inner life. Whenever we give, we are countering our natural selfishness with the equally natural (and much pleasanter) energy of generosity. We only need to remember (and re-remember) this principle for it to do its work.