Adjusting our Perspectives

By Jean Blish Siers *

Bad ProductFirst 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.

Tomato with EarsFrom 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


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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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