The Gleaners

“And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’…“Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.” (Ruth 2)

An extra zucchini, passed along.
A berry patch hanging with beautiful excess.
A bag of lettuce. A cup of beans. A knot of beets.

Bits and bags and boxes of the season’s extras.
The gleanings.

This town is one of bounty, wealth, stocked pantries, fat bellies.
This town is one of want, poverty, red accounts, eyes with stories.

It’s difficult…uncomfortable…unacceptable(?) to discuss personal need in our society; that is, unless we are the ‘us’ and the need is the ‘them’ and we keep to our own company with clean personal space and thin smiles. We don’t really want to hear that things haven’t worked out, or that you really don’t know, or that an end may not be met.
It should be noted that, the fact is, we are not a ‘developing nation’, we are not ‘the third world’, no one’s going to feature any families of This Town on a sponsorship commercial. The needs present in these families are often trivial compared to the thousands (upon thousands upon…) overseas. Here, there is ample: Water. Shelter. Freedom. Opportunity.
Yet, despite that very important and noted difference, hunger does live here. Families are on the brink of losing it all. Marriages are cracking under the strain of pulling things together while keeping quiet and not sharing information that may be ‘inappropriate’ or make others uncomfortable. It is the kind of need that makes one question life choices. It is the kind of social position which can bring shame. It’s the kind of circumstance where others and we and us make comments including, “They really don’t have it that bad….” without knowing the kind of ‘bad’ living under that particular, silent, roof. Comments including, “Well if they can afford that then I’m sure they’re fine…” without understanding the reasoning or regret or ten previous steps necessitating ‘that’. Comments including, “There’s work, they just need to be willing to get out there!” “Beggers can’t be choosers!” “Well wouldn’t we all love to be given a free meal!” “Well I guess they’re dealing with their consequences”.

Come on, Church.

Enter the gleaners.
Young families, single students, widowed elders. Clean cut and educated, pregnant, dirty, middle-aged, and on…and on. You. Me.

Enter the gleanings.
The aforementioned fruits of the season; easily wasted or passed over or hoarded.
Not always the greens of a garden, but a word, a gift, a touch. The excess of grace and bounty given to You. To Me. Undeserved.

This post is a piece of many swirling inside of me. There are too many threads within it to complete it at the moment. One thread directs us to our social responsibility with the goods we have been given (excess… and otherwise). One thread to the reality of seeing with eyes that see, true stories in the families amongst us. One thread to some very practical ideas on how to use extra food in your garden, community, and pantry. All in all, too many for an evening that has grown late.

For now, I will go and peek outside where my man and my eldest are ‘camping’ in the yard. I will wipe my counter, and finish tucking away this evening’s Gleaner’s Soup; an odd assortment of beets and chard that provided an equal assortment of reactions at the dinner table. It will be set next to that saved  bowl of gleaned berries, atop that last bit of zucchini, already prepped for tomorrow’s bread. We will kneel together and Jeremiah will show us how to pray (“Like this mama!”) and we will speak together, “We pray for the poor…the hungry…the lonely….” as we give thanks for the bounty provided in and through this home and community.

There is just so much around us…. It makes me quiver to consider all that is ahead….

6 Responses to “The Gleaners”
  1. Katherine says:

    You should read Generous Justice by Timothy Keller, (you can order it through the library here) it is seriously excellent and talks about many of the things you mentioned. Since my husband lost his job almost 4 months ago now, and we have become one of those families that needs gleanings, and well, my eyes and heart have been opened. I agree so much with what you said here! Seriously you should read that book though, it is so good.

  2. Kmarie says:

    You wrote about this better than I. I tried a year ago to convey this idea when we were breaking under finances. Truthfully we still struggle. You conveyed the judgments and balance well. My hubby just got called with an extra roof request- if he gets it we discussed he will take J:) Also, thought of a deal with you…I have stuff right now in pantry, fridge and freezer. If I give you access do you want to do the cooking and we can share meals? ( I will help with what I can…did you read my third last post?) Anyway, we could either have you bring the kiddos and come before supper to play and cook everyday or we could take a day and cook up stuff for freezers ( mine isn’ that big) or we could do a bit of both. I don’t mind splitting my food if you can figure out what to do with it. The big problem might be that we like our meat, sugar and other stuff so there may not be a common food like but we could try a few times.? Let me know soon:)

  3. Kmarie says:

    and we lost your phone number.

  4. Melanie says:

    oh such a beautiful post, Dee. There is so much around us, hey? I love your heart. I miss your thoughts and our conversations over coffee.

  5. This is the sort of thing that has been on my mind a great deal lately too. I live in a neighborhood where there is a great deal of excess, it seems…but even here I sometimes see haunted looks and hear snippets of stories about families on the brink of losing everything…I’m not sure anyone but God completely understands all the hunger in this world, be it here or in the Horn of Africa.

    Was it you that had mentioned yurts a while back? I just found a new “style” of yurt I thought might be cool.

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