Receiving a Windfall!

By Jean Blish Siers *

Jean Siers with a windfall fruit.A couple weeks ago, I received a windfall. If you think a distant relative left me a fortune, you would be, in a word, wrong! “Windfall” has two meanings, and in the gleaning world, they feel closely related. It can mean an unexpected and unearned gain (like that vast fortune I did not receive); and it also means a fruit – apple, orange, peach — that has been knocked off a tree by the wind.

It started out a cold, blue-sky morning and we were gleaning apples at a beautiful orchard near Hendersonville, North Carolina. The ground was covered in red Rome apples after a Halloween storm blew through a couple days earlier. It felt like an unexpected, unearned treat to us: All we had to do was bend over and pick up the windfall fruit that waited for us!

It struck me how often we don’t take the opportunity to see the windfall that is all around us. We can live our lives aware of scarcity, or we can choose to look for abundance.

To be clear, I know plenty of people in my community live without an abundance of food, or without the money with which to purchase it or the other things necessary for their daily lives. I see the complicated interplay of scarcity and abundance all year long: I fill ten trucks with food from a generous farmer and the produce is handed out by evening. Even with everything I send out, I’m left wishing I had more to give.

Apples in the leaves.But I also know this: Too many of us who live in startling abundance choose to see only scarcity, and it makes us afraid, unkind, and ungenerous. We worry that someone else has more than we have or will get more if we let down our guard: a bigger house, a newer car, or they’re taking a nicer vacation. Maybe their kids go to better schools. Or their retirement plan will look better than ours. We think if we work to meet others’ basic needs (a livable wage, access to health care, a decent place to live, equitable schools) that it will somehow take away from us, from our lives, from our needs. We see life as a zero-sum game rather than “a rising tide lifts all boats.” We see scarcity rather than the abundance – the windfall – that is all around us.

Walking through that orchard, I was struck by the diversity of our gleaning team. We were white and African-American. We were Americans and we were Eastern European immigrants who spoke little English. We were young and not-so-young. Everyone worked hard. Gathering windfalls requires a lot of bending and some of our backs and knees don’t bend so well anymore. Buckets get awfully heavy when they’re full.

What we shared was a willingness to see bounty where others see waste. And it’s not enough to see the bounty. We also have to act on it, rescue it, and share it with those who don’t live as abundantly as we do.

That Saturday was a windfall day for me. It was a chance to see abundance in an orchard that was ready to be put to bed for the winter. In the thin fall sunshine of the North Carolina mountains, I got to spend a morning gathering not only apples but also more than a little bit of God’s grace for his people. That’s a windfall by anyone’s standards!

* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Western NC, Charlotte Area, and South Carolina Program Coordinator


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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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