Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Gleaning: A Generous Spirit

From the Guardian

All of us as toddlers went through a stage when our favorite word was “mine.” The experts would tell us that it is perfectly normal, but what’s not normal is never growing out of that stage. Or even, I would suggest reverting back to that stage later in life.

Many years ago, I met a traveler who carried everything he owned in a single, small suit case. He came to me looking for help to purchase a bus ticket so he could get to the next town. When he saw me the first thing he announced was that he was “loaded.” I naturally assumed that he meant that he had been drinking. But as we talked I came to realize that he meant that that he was loaded down with all his stuff, the stuff he kept in that small suit case.

I knew in that moment that I was the one who was loaded. I was the one weighed down with stuff, too much stuff. His small suit case could barely carry a small fraction of what I owned, of what weighed me down. I felt thankful for all that I had, and a bit shameful for all that I had. I learned a valuable lesson that day and it only cost me the price of a ticket to the next town. I learned that stuff is only stuff and that what really matters is what we do with that stuff. I realized that my gratitude for all my stuff needed to include a spirit of generosity.

Now, the leaves are turning and the harvest is being brought in. As summer gives way to fall our minds naturally turn to a deep sense of gratitude. We are thankful for the bounty of creation and its ability to provide for us. We are thankful for the beauty of creation, not only for the richness of the autumn colours but also for the beauty that we see in every season.

Shortly, on Thanksgiving Day many of us will gather with friends and family to enjoy the wonderful taste sensations available for us at this time of year. Many of us will choose to spend time in prayer, giving thanks to the Creator for the bounty and beauty of creation. There is joy at the harvest and cause for celebration.

There is an old tradition in many rural communities called gleaning. It is the practice of allowing people into the fields after the harvest to collect what might have been dropped or missed. The best spirit of this tradition meant that many farmers would deliberately leave part of the crop so that neighbours and strangers who needed it could glean. It was an expression of thanksgiving and generosity.

These days, most of us harvest at grocery stores and farmer’s markets. We are thankful for the men and women who labour and care for the land and sea so that we can enjoy the harvest. The spirit of gleaning does not rest with them alone. Our gratitude for what we have can help build in us a spirit of generosity, a spirit that is expressed in the tradition of gleaning. We can continue the spirit of gleaning by making donations of food, money and time to the many organizations on the Island that help those in need.


Amanda said...

Many of the farmers around us still practice gleaning... very cool.
One of the things I'm trying to do is what's commonly called "decluttering", but becomes a spiritual exercise when it's done in the sense of unloading, unburdening, and re-establishing priorities. It's amazing how much better you feel when you have less stuff, or when you change your relationship with your stuff.

John Clarke said...

Thanks Amamda for the comment. Teresa calls it "purging." It's good for the soul.