“Love: a string of coincidences that gather significance and become miracles.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This week Krista has asked us to illustrate the concept of “gathering” – in honor of the families and friends who will gather to celebrate the holidays in the coming days. Rather than focus on the many blessings of the season, the challenge brought to my mind an experience from our recent visit to China.
“By plucking her petals you do not gather the beauty of the flower.”
In several places we saw workers gathering to gather crops like rice and barley. In a country like China, where one of the primary resources is manpower, there is very little automation used in the fields. Rather the back-breaking labor is done by men and women alike. Children deliver water to the laborers who toil under the hot sun.
“He who would have nothing to do with thorns must never attempt to gather flowers.”
Henry David Thoreau
As I watched, I was reminded of a gentle dance performed by the workers’ coordinated efforts and synchronized movements. Almost always there were iconic straw hats or colorful tribal costumes to further enhance the scene.
“Happiness doesn’t lie in the objects we gather around us. To find it, all we need to do is open our eyes.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
One of my favorite things about travel is its ability to show us the lives of people around the world. Here in the US, for the most part crops are harvested using sophisticated machinery with minimal human intervention. Living in the south though, I’ve often thought of what it must have been like in colonial times. Crops like cotton and indigo were harvested in the intense heat of the lowcountry summers, when mosquitoes and no-see-ums were plentiful and bathing was a rare and infrequent luxury. Perhaps these scenes in China reflect some of what life must have been back then.
“In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.”
Fingers torn, back aching, skin burned by the sun….what must a day in the fields have meant to those who labored for so little return? When the long day was over, did they share the fruits of their labor with family and friends, or more likely, did they fall into an exhausted sleep knowing tomorrow would be much the same as today?
“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.”
How fortunate are we to live in an era and in a place where food is plentiful and the work to provide it is done by others? As we enjoy our holiday meals, do we think about where they came from and whose labor went into providing them?
“Gather the stars if you wish it so.”
It is a mere accident of birth that we live as we do while others struggle through an entirely different existence. Let us make this holiday season one of giving – not only to our families and friends but also to strangers in need. Let us be generous, sharing the gifts we’ve been given. Give a dollar to help feed the hungry. Give an hour of your time to a child who needs help learning to read – or to a hard working immigrant trying to learn English. If nothing else, give the gift of a smile to a stranger. Who knows, it just might be exactly what he or she needs right at that moment.
Wishing you all the best of the season – may peace, love and joy fill your hearts, and generosity feed your soul.