The greatest of these is charity

by Jean Blish Siers *

Potato Drop; Photo by Robert Lahser, Charlotte Observer

Photo by Robert Lahser, Charlotte Observer

For some reason, the question stumped me: “So, what you do is charity?” I had a table at an elementary school’s Earth Day celebration, and a little boy asked me that after I explained how Society of St. Andrew works. It’s odd, but no one has ever asked me that before. I know we’re a non-profit; I know we have the highest rating possible from Charity Navigator. We bring food to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. And yet, I stumbled over saying that we’re a charity.

Words have so many meanings and connotations. For some, charity is a handout, helping people game the system, institutionalizing dependence. This group believes that charity makes the situation worse. Some say the market will take care of poverty if we just let the market work. Yet we all now people who have full-time jobs and cannot afford rent, decent food, and transportation all in the same month. We live in a political climate where we too often see people demonizing the poor and the marginalized.

Still others say charity is all right as far as it goes, but we should really work for justice, to change the system that, in our case, created the hunger to begin with. Charity makes us feel better about the situation while doing nothing to stop the forces perpetuating it.

And yet, Society of St. Andrew is a charity in the best sense of the word. The King James Bible translates the familiar passage from 1 Corinthians 13, as “faith, hope and charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity.” St. Augustine wrote, “Charity is a virtue which, when our affections are perfectly ordered, unites us to God, for by it we love him.” And Thomas Aquinas believed that of all Christian virtues, charity was “the foundation or root” of them all.

If charity asks us to be the hands and feet of God, then our hands pick the food and our feet carry that food deep into neighborhoods to people who might not have access to fresh corn in the summer or apples or greens in the fall. Our faith and hope sustain us as we do our work, knowing that while we bring food to many, even more go without.

* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte Area Gleaning Coordinator, and a regular contributor to this News & Events blog.




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.