By Reverend Steven C. Bonsey
As a boy I spent summers on my grandparents’ family farm on Maui. I helped with the cows, the vegetable garden, the fruit orchard, and the chickens. I picked avocados from the trees.
At breakfast my grandfather served five-grain cereal, a concoction of his own, with fresh raw milk from Red the milk cow, who had to be milked early every morning, without fail. I thought it tasted funny. For lunch we had vegetable soup. There was an endless pot of it on the stove with the garden’s various offerings added day by day. And morning, noon and night, there were avocados.
I often wished back then that we could just have normal meals: normal cereal, normal milk, and normal food in packages from the store.
These days I belong with my wife to a farm share on Martha’s Vineyard. We feel good about participating in Community Supported Agriculture. We like going to the island farm to collect our share of whatever the season and the soil bring forth in that place.
The farm we visit is not exactly a model of organization and efficiency, but we find that endearing. The assortment of produce in our basket can be quirky — six round dusty yellow cucumbers? — but we take that as an invitation to creativity. The tomatoes are cosmetically challenged, but boy do they taste good.
We love many things about the CSA, but above all we love sharing big platters of fresh local food with family and friends on an island evening. The meal resonates with connection to the people and the soil of that place as it delights our senses and nourishes our souls. This “daily bread’’ keeps us truly alive: alive as creatures of the earth, alive as loving and beloved persons in community, and alive as organic expressions of the Divine Intention, graciously present and purposefully at work in the world.
The meals would still be good if we went about them in the usual way, that is, if we decided what we wanted to cook, went to the market to choose desirable products from near or far, in and out of season, and selected what looked attractive to us. The nutritious and appetizing qualities would all be there, but the rich and subtle resonance would not.
Years ago when Elisabeth and I entered Harvest Time’s Boston Circle, we knew what we were looking for. We were tied up in knots around our money. Things didn’t feel right to us, and issues were too often coming between us. We needed help with our money.
Only the desperation of this need could possibly have motivated us to be willing to do what Harvest Time asked us to do: to join another group; to share our feelings; to be silly; and so forth.
Today our participation in Harvest Time feels as necessary to our well being as food. Yes, we got help with our money. We experienced healing and liberation that we could not have imagined. But we have received more.
Today I am grateful for my money and enjoy it in precisely the same way that I enjoy and am deeply grateful for all that the universe so abundantly and freely gives to me: the air I breathe, the light of the sun, the fruits of the earth, the love of family and friends — in short, every blessing of my life.
As part of that gratitude and enjoyment I try to stay conscious of my connectedness with all people and things: with the workers who created the wealth that now is “mine”; with the farmers that grow the food I eat; with the micro-organisms that give the soil its life; with the neighbor who stands by the road with a sign reading “veteran”; with the neighbor across the planet trying to feed her children when the rains no longer come as they once did.
To be fully alive, I need to act out of conscious connection with all that is and with the Source of all that is, the fountain that flows abundant and fresh. The practices and the fellowship of Harvest Time help me to live fully in this way.
When Elisabeth and I make gifts, we are doing something very different from donating to a religious charity or contributing to a progressive cause. We feel instead that we are joining ourselves to a life-giving system that includes us and benefits us, but that is larger than us, that flows from the source of all life and out through us into the world in unexpected ways .
Years ago as a boy I watched with pride as neighbors would come to our Maui farm and my grandfather patiently showed them how to start a beehive or keep bananas by drying them in the sun. He would never have considered charging for his “time” or “expertise”. In gratitude, those who came to him often returned to us with gifts from the bounty of their own gardens.
I would like my giving to be like that.