In “The Vision of Sir Launfal,” an interesting story is told of a young knight who rode out into the world in search of the Holy Grail (the cup which the Master supposedly drank from at the Last Supper). He had dedicated his life to the quest. He was young, handsome, and strong, clothed in bright and shining armor, mounted on a gallant white charger. As he crossed the drawbridge riding out into the world, a beggar (who was a leper) put up his hand to him, begging alms. The young knight reached into his pouch, took out a gold coin and flung it to the beggar as he rode on, but he really did not give the beggar very much because no one would accept even a gold coin from a leper.
The young man searched for the cup; of course he didn’t find it, although he spent his life in the quest. He did, however, learn a lot, and at the close of his life he was returning to his castle, no longer young. He is now shrunken with age. His armor is no longer bright; his mount is no longer a charger but just a tired old gray horse. As he was about to cross the drawbridge into the castle, once again a beggar put up his hand begging for alms. This time Sir Launfal stopped, got down from his horse, reached into his knapsack and took out the only thing he had—a crust of bread. He then dipped his cup into the stream and gave the crust of bread and one cup of cold water to the beggar.
The wooden cup from which the beggar drank turned into the Holy Grail for which he had searched, and the beggar turned into a Christ and said a very interesting thing. He said:
“Not what we give, but what we share.
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three,
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.”
(“The Vision of Sir Launfal,” James R. Lowell.)