Teach A Man To Fish

There is an expression, “if you feed a man a fish, you feed him for a day…if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”.

I think the intent of the expression is that it is more important (long-term) to teach people to help themselves, instead of just giving them something.  It isn’t enough just to feed someone for a day.  The next day, they need to be fed again.

I understand.  I agree.

But in order to “teach a person to fish”, that person also has to be fed.


Theresa and I have had a couple of opportunities recently to feed homeless people.  Both opportunities were a result of commitments that Theresa made through her workplace.

Let me take a moment, and acknowledge that homelessness is a complicated problem.  It probably isn’t even “a problem”.  It is a complicated set of problems.  And I don’t pretend to have answers to all of the problems.

But I do have a yearning to do something about it.  I do not believe that families should go to bed hungry at night.  I do not believe that mothers with small children should ever have to sleep outside.  I do not believe that anyone wants to live in a situation that is dangerous and dirty.

I’ve felt all of that for a while, but I haven’t done much about it.

Until now.


There is a fable about a boy who is walking along a beach filled with starfish.  There are thousands of starfish on the beach.  The boy picks up a starfish, looks at it, then throws it into the water.  He does this with several starfish.

A man watches the boy, and finally asks him about what he is doing.  He says to the boy, why are you doing this?  There are thousands of starfish here- does what you are doing matter?

The boy takes a starfish, throws it in water, and says “it mattered to that one”.


We helped (with a group of people) to serve a couple of meals last week.  At one place, 250 people were fed, and at the other, 100 people were fed.

Men, women, and some children, too.

The people who prepared the meals did so with great love.  The food was nutritious, and filling.  It was attractively prepared and plated.  And the people who served it did so with joy.

I have attached a couple of photos from the Broad Street Ministry.  It’s a nice place.  They make the meals nice places to be.  They have tablecloths, and nice dinner music playing in the background .

If I was homeless, and I was hungry, I would want to be treated with dignity and respect.  They did that at the Broad Street Ministry.

File Sep 08, 9 41 59 AM File Sep 08, 9 40 48 AM (1)


For reasons I do not understand, I was asked to be a greeter at both of the meals I volunteered at.  At both places my job was to welcome people.  To look them in the eyes, smile, greet them, and bring them inside.

That helped me.  I think the experience helped me a lot.  I hope it helped them too.



We had an opportunity last week to “feed a man a fish”.

But I learned about some of the ways that the Broad Street Ministry is learning to “teach a man to fish”.  One of the outreach services that they provide to their homeless clients is a mailing address.

Go back and read that last sentence again, because it is important.

They offer homeless people a mailing address.  The reason that that is important is….I don’t even know where to start.  I did not realize how important a mailing address is, because I have always had one.

This ministry offers a mailing address, and 2900 people have taken advantage of this service.  It means that they have an opportunity to obtain health benefits, and social services.  They can take training programs.  They can register to vote.  They can apply for jobs.  They can be contacted by friends and relatives if they don’t have a cell phone. They can be reached.

The Broad Street Ministry offers other services as well, and I am just learning what they do.  But I am especially struck by the mailing address service.


The point of the “teach a man to fish” expression is that it isn’t enough just to feed someone for a day.  The next day, that person needs to be fed again.

I understand.  I agree.

But in order to “teach a person to fish”, that person also has to be fed.

It is easier to help that person to learn to fish if he/she has a mailing address.



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