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A Sweet Potato in Your Stocking?

By Jean Blish Siers *

Charlotte, North Carolina gleaning coordinator Jean Siers with dedicated driver Bill Parsons

The past few weeks, I’ve been wondering about sweet potatoes in Christmas stockings. When I was a little girl, my mother always put an orange in the toe of our Christmas stocking, but wouldn’t a sweet potato work just as well?

Here’s what got me thinking about it: Just before Christmas, Society of St. Andrew hosted a potato drop at New Friendship Presbyterian Church in Huntersville, North Carolina. The morning of the drop was pretty darned cold. About thirty of us gathered with temperatures just above freezing and started bagging the mountain of sweet potatoes.

We were, as always, a diverse group: Christian and Jewish, African-American and white, children and the young-at-heart. In spite of the cold, the mood was festive. Some folks arrived in Santa hats. A few of us (well, I did) valiantly tried engaging the group in “gleaning carols,” but mostly we talked and laughed, and swapped stories and holiday recipes. I’d been to a Hanukkah dinner the night before and my friend Arlene, who is Jewish, told me about her family’s dreidel traditions.

It struck me how true to the spirit of the holidays that activity was, gathering together, sharing laughter and light, working for someone other than ourselves. The day before, I’d found myself in a suburban Target store. After walking what felt like a mile across a sea of asphalt, I was in a frenzy of modern Christmas. Shelves were bare. Carts overflowed. People didn’t look or sound happy. At the drop the next day, everyone pitched in. One woman made two separate runs to the liquor store, not for supplies for a holiday party but for free boxes, which we found easier to fill and load than bags. Two home-schooled kiddos worked hard all morning, leaving only when their mom said they had to get back to class. No one seemed to notice the cold – the work and the company warmed us.

Lois Kilkka confronts 40,000 pounds of sweet potatoes.

After noon, a few elderly ladies came out of the neighboring soup kitchen and asked if they could have some potatoes. We told them “of course.” They had some paper bags and we filled them. One of the ladies said, “I’ll eat a few of these, but I think I’ll give some to friends for Christmas! Won’t they be happy to get something like that!”

It made me remember the people at Target the day before, stripping the shelves and hurrying on to the next store. Would any of them have appreciated fresh vegetables in their stockings? At a time of year when we’re basically shamed into consumerism, the potato drop felt like a breath of cool, fresh air. It drove home to me how divided we are as a community and a nation, when some are happy only if they get the latest game system or the nicest watch, and others are happy to have something fresh and nutritious to eat and to share.

I’m going to try to hold onto that part of my Christmas season, now that we’ve reached Epiphany and the trees and lights are down. Maybe gleaning carols will never catch on (I’m going to work on some for next year,) but the gift of good food never goes out of season!

* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte, North Carolina gleaning coordinator

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VOLUNTEER WAIVER

In the event I, or a registered family member, suffers any illness or accident requiring emergency hospitalization, medication, or other medical assistance while participating in a gleaning event, permission is given for any medical treatment which is deemed necessary and reasonable under the circumstances. I fully understand and comprehend that reasonable care will be exercised by the adult staff for this gleaning event to protect the safety of those involved. I understand that the field supervisor’s instructions must be followed at all times, and that I am responsible for any damages caused to fields, farms, or equipment by me/my family members not following these instructions.

Photos, videos, and other images in which I, or a registered family member, appear that are taken during gleanings may be used by the Society of St. Andrew for news coverage, newsletters, reports, displays, and for other print, broadcast, web, or electronic news or promotional purposes.

I do not hold the board, members, or employees of the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA,) or any volunteers liable for injury, bodily harm, accidents, or death of myself/my child during events sponsored by the Society of St. Andrew. Neither will I hold the person(s) who owns and/or operates the property from which we glean, salvage, or to which we deliver food, liable for accidents, injury, or death during the gleanings or other SoSA events.

For a PDF print version of this waiver, click here.

How the Story of the 12 Baskets is Connected to SoSA’s Name

Matthew 14:16-21

But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

2 Kings 4:42-44

[…]the man of God […] said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.

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