By Jean Blish Siers *
First she did a little hip-hop twerk, and then easily moved into a graceful plié. We were discussing her dance class as we gleaned our way through about fifteen rows of blackberries. Most of the other kids from her youth group had given up – it was hot and humid and the fun had worn off for them – but this sparkling, almost 10-year-old was sticking with it.
After I admired her dance moves, she dropped to the ground and did a spectacular back bend, her palms and feet planted, her head dropping backwards behind her as she raised herself off the ground. And she said, “Wow! From that angle, I spotted a lot more blackberries underneath the leaves!” We sprang to action, adding them to our bucket.
It made me think how important perspective is in everything we do. My entire job is seeing abundance where others see scarcity, value where others see liability. It’s not a bad way to train oneself to go through life!
Earlier this summer, one of our wonderful farmer/distributors called and asked if I thought Friendship Trays, our Meals-on-Wheels agency here in Charlotte, North Carolina, could use some blueberries. Of course they could! Why did he have dozens of flats of blueberries to give away? In each clear clamshell, there was at least one spoiled berry. Any clamshell with one bad blueberry was rejected by the grocer. That meant that from each gallon of blueberries, there were perhaps a dozen bad berries.
A piece of cardboard on top of the pallet caught my eye that day. It was a chunk of a box top and on it someone had written, BAD PRODUCT as a way to keep straight which could go to the store. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
From the perspective of most of our consumer culture, the food we save is “bad product.” It’s too big, too small, or a funny shape. It’s a bin of watermelon with one bad melon. It’s a zucchini that’s 10 inches long instead of nine. It’s corn that didn’t fill out all the way to the end.
With the right perspective, we can all see abundance instead of scarcity, good product instead of bad. Mark Twain said, “If you want love and abundance in your life, give it away.” Wise words!
This summer has been spectacularly hot, and I am grateful for the perspective of my volunteers who choose to think it’s a fun and worthwhile activity to spend a couple hours in a steamy corn or tomato field, getting muddy or covered in tomato goo. We laugh a lot out there. We work together surprisingly well, since we are all different ages, men and women, and from all walks of life and life experience. What could be a “bad morning” is instead a morning filled with community and generosity.
Bad product? Nope. Love and abundance? Definitely!
* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s gleaning coordinator for Western NC, Charlotte Area, and South Carolina