Fifty or Five Thousand?

Do not work for food that spoils,
but for food that endures to eternal life, 
which the Son of Man will give you. 

John 6:27 (NIV)
After a boy's five loaves and two fish had fed the crowds on the hills above Galilee, the Lord took the opportunity to build on what had happened and drew spiritual truths from the event. It was a little different for us, but we too realised that there's more to feeding than food. 
Every day the 'Free Feeding' van would leave the Salvation Army's Red Shield Guest House in Madras/Chennai with cauldrons of rice and dhal, usually with a vegetable and on festival occasions, something extra. It would call at five points in the city where they would meet a queue of people waiting for their meal of the day. Some would come with a tiffin can, others a discarded plastic container, and some with just a plastic bag. After traditional hand-washing most would stop and eat on the spot; others would move off, presumably to share what they got with someone else, whether that was in a crowded room up rickety stairs or in the makeshift shelter of a pavement sleeper.
There was no attempt to 'preach' but a member of the team offered prayer and there were attempts to engage in conversation with the beneficiaries. But these were not static food banks where people can come and go at their leisure, but rather more like 'meals on wheels', and the wheels had to keep going. After all there were another fifty waiting at the next stop.
The programme was funded by a generous German donor who came out to India once a year to see what was happening, check the accounts and evaluate the effectiveness of what was being done. 
'I'm happy to carry on doing what I'm doing,' he explained, 'but is there no way we can get to know more about the underlying problems of each person in the queue?' 
A social worker was appointed. Slowly he got to know the people. Occasionally there were solutions that meant they no longer needed to join the queue. But there were always others to take their place. This was not a disease to be defeated - end of problem. Here were deep-seated socio-economic factors impacting people and whole families. At least they had something to eat. The programme continued. 
'Never mind,' said the generous benefactor. 'After all it was Jesus who said: "I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat ... (We know the rest). Whatever you did not do for the least of these , you did not do for me." I don't want to 'not do' this. I'll carry on.'
So we did.