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Feeding the Soul

Joyce Tompkins

Joyce Tompkins is the Religious Advisor to the Campus Protestant Community. Other Spiritual Reflections are available on the Religious Advisor's page.

You can write to Joyce at

Just over a week ago, I drove my son Peter back to college in Brooklyn. He didn't have much stuff: a duffel bag of clothes, one sweatshirt, his art supplies, a box of books, a laptop, some wood for one of his furniture projects, a desk lamp and a trash can.

He had told me he was moving into a suite with three friends, and that he would have access to a kitchen. Great! No more over-priced and underwhelming meal plan!

Did he want to bring up some kitchen equipment? No, he'd wait and see what his roomies wanted to do. How about a few staples to tide him over until he got to the grocery store? No, they'd figure all that out later.

He was the first of his suitemates to move in. So I left him there, alone and happy in his Brooklyn apartment, with its gas stove and full sized refrigerator and empty cabinets and bare cupboards. And, for the first time, I gave him a credit card. I figured that with no meal plan, very little cash and no work study checks for at least two weeks, he was going to have to feed himself somehow. I left him there, all alone, in his Brooklyn apartment. Did I mention I left him there?

OK, I am a Mom. I worry sometimes. In spite of all the places in the Bible where we are reminded not to worry - I do it anyway. I drove back to Swarthmore, and I waited one day. Then I emailed him with a few suggestions of kitchen equipment he might want to buy. Didn't hear a word. The next day, a Saturday, I was in Bed Bath and Beyond and saw that Mr. Coffee coffeemakers were on sale. So I texted Peter, to see if he wanted me to ship one up to Brooklyn. No reply. On Monday, when Doug was taking the train up to New York, I gave him a (small) bag of supplies to bring up for Peter. But when Doug returned from the city on Tuesday, he told me Peter had never stopped by to pick up the bag. On Wednesday, I checked the credit card - no charges. On Thursday I called his cell. He didn't pick up. Did I mention that I worry sometimes?

Finally, on Friday afternoon, exactly one week after I'd left him in Brooklyn, I received a text message from Peter. And this is what it said: "Thanks mom. Things are going great. I have a ukulele. I will play it for you when I come home for Thanksgiving. Love Peter."

He has A UKELELE. What a relief! I can stop worrying now. Who needs pots and pans? Orange juice? Fresh fruit and veggies? Cups and spoons and cereal bowls? Apparently, my son Peter is feeding his soul. How is he feeding his body? God knows.

And of course that's the point. God knows, even if I don't. Relax, Mom. Peter is well cared for. He will be home for Thanksgiving. Hopefully, I will hear from him a few times between now and then. Independent, creative, stubborn - he has never been much of a communicator when he's away. He has his own, deep, non-traditional spirituality. He feeds himself on art and music and meditation. I don't think he even reads the Bible. But he reminds me, constantly, of the most basic of biblical truths: that we do not live by bread alone. That we do not need to be afraid. That if we seek first the things of God, all other things will come in their time.

When Peter comes home for Thanksgiving, he will play his ukulele for me. He will remind me, again, of the many things I keep forgetting to be thankful for. Music. Art. Love. Trees. In the meantime, I can stop worrying. After all, he has a ukulele.