Wednesday, October 12, 2011

gleaning


Dean has been talking about generous living lately.  He is much better at it than I am.  For one thing, he understands the concept of 'gleaning.'  This is related to a farming practice in which the farmer deliberately leaves a bit of the harvest out on the field for folks down on their luck to 'glean' or pick up in order to feed their families.  You find it figuring prominently in the biblical story of Ruth.  The basic principle is that we do not try to wring the last bit of value out of our resources, livelihoods, or transactions, but make sure we leave something behind for someone else.  Dean compares it to the contemporary practice of tipping in a restaurant. Leave something behind - something good and substantial - not just leftovers that are hardly worth scraping off the ground. 

Another place that I find myself thinking in terms of 'gleaning' is when I am selling or buying something that involves negotiation.  I always try to leave the other person with a sense of dignity, a sense of being treated fairly and generously.  My goal is not to score a great deal at the expense of another.  Instead, I aim for a situation where both parties feel they came away with a fair deal: win/win.  I know that I have often paid more than I really had to, but I think of the seller coming home to his family and saying, "Hey kids, today a lady paid me more money than usual for a pair of sunglasses, so ice cream for everyone!"  That possible scenario is worth more than a few dollars in my wallet.

Time is another area in which I try to leave room for 'gleaning.'  This means that when I have a certain place to be at a certain time, I leave my home a few minutes early - enough time to spare so that I don't have to rush past a stranger asking for directions, or I can allow for a conversation with a friend I haven't seen in ages, or I can talk unhurriedly with the person behind the counter at the coffee shop.  Time is not mine to use to the last second; I need to leave some spaces in my day so that I can give time to others along the way.

Sharing is sometimes a challenge for me.  I tend to buy only enough food for myself and don't always think to share my snacks or drinks.  I don't always like to give up  my hard-won seat on the subway or let others go first in line, either, but I am learning.  When I do think to share, the gratitude on the faces of the recipients reminds me how much giving a little bit of what I have can mean to someone else.  Extra change, extra food, extra clothes, extra seats, extra tickets, extra time, extra space in my home, etc.  It doesn't take much to leave some of my 'extra' for others. 

I have certainly been the recipient of 'gleaning.'  Let me be a happy and conscientious 'gleanee" as well.

The photo:  a squirrel on my balcony this past weekend enjoying a green tomato left in the pot after I cleaned up my plants.

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