Good News: A Weekly Update from St Thomas Church—November 7, 2013
Over the last week or so, I have seen Canada geese in increasing numbers out in the newly cleared fields. They are gleaners – they come to gather, or to glean, what has been left behind by those who harvested the crop. Mostly I have seen them in the corn fields, getting those last bits of corn. In the process, they also help to aerate the soil with their digging beaks and claws, and they provide some natural fertilizer to the fields. There was a print of a painting entitled, “The Gleaners” in the small room in my grandparents’ house where I sometimes slept as a child. It is a famous painting, not of geese, but of people. It has been a tradition from the beginning of organized agriculture that the poor be allowed to gather or to glean following the harvest, collecting the left over fruits, grains and vegetables. They could sell what they gleaned, or store it for their own use during the coming winter. Some landowners were stingy, and took off their fields every bit they possibly could take. Others were generous, and would often leave plenty, even whole areas of the field or orchard, for the gleaners.
The practice still goes on today in various parts of our country. The place that is most familiar to me is in New York State, in the area up near Lake Ontario. It is very fertile ground with an abundance of produce – fruit trees, grapes, and a variety of vegetables. They do their best as farmers to leave behind what could easily be called an “elegant sufficiency” for gleaners. Some farmers even assist the gleaners in their gathering, making it a time of mutual celebration for the abundance of the harvest. It is their way of sharing their bounty and giving back to their communities. The farmers’ profits may be reduced a bit by this practice, but it is for them the way in which they wish to order their lives.
I think of them as I watch the geese – and give thanks to God for abundance and generosity, wherever it is found – and I think about ways in which I might be more generous with the abundance in my life.
Peace and blessing, Carol +