All Things Come of You

Several years ago, I took a group of middle school youth from Boston on a mission trip to Puerto Rico. Mind you this was not a trip to San Juan or one of the more popular beach areas of the island. Instead, we stayed in the mountain villages just above the City of Ponce. 
The mountain villages are different from the beach side communities. They tend to be smaller and much more rural. The roads are narrow with most of the communities we visited being surrounded by the coffee plantations which provide most of the commerce for the area. Buildings in the area, including the local churches are simple structures, cement floors, cinderblock walls, with elevated corrugated mettle roofs lifted a foot or so off the top of the wall to allow the tropical heat to escape the building. 
At the end of our stay, the young people were invited to Dona Theresa’s home. Dona Theresa was an elderly matriarch of the community. Before we visited, our host explained to the young people that Dona Theresa wanted us to visit so she could show us her home. Her home was one of the first houses re-built after Hurricane George. For the first time in all her years living in the mountains she had indoor plumbing and electricity that worked consistently. All the modern conveniences we take for granted every day.
When we arrived at Dona’s house, we were not surprised by what we saw, in the midst of a fenced yard filled with flowers and fruit trees stood Dona Theresa’s simple home. Like most structures it was a single story dwelling made of cinderblock and corrugated mettle. The building’s footprint could not have been much more than twelve by twenty. When you entered the darkened home, along the wall to the left was her kitchen and small table, with a couch, chair and television placed neatly at the other end of the room. Behind the main room were two small bedrooms and her bathroom. This she showed us with great pride and great appreciation. 
What really blew our minds came at the end of the visit, as we left Dona Theresa’s home, she gathered a hand full of mangos and a grape like fruit and gave some to each of the youth as she thanked them for coming to her home.   
A gift of fruit seems like such a small gesture by the standards we share here in Rhode Island. However, for Dona Theresa, the fruit she gave to our young people may as well have been hundred dollar bills for her. Because the fruit she gave away she could have used as trade for meat from the chicken farm up the street. The fruits she gave away, she could have carried a few miles down the road and sold to the wealthy on their way to their weekend homes. Instead, she chose to use what little she had to show gratitude for our taking the time to visit and show interest in her life.
At the offertory we often pray, “ all thing come of you O Lord, and of your own have we given you.” It is only among those who live off the land or sea, who seem to truly understand what these words mean. For the rest of us it is so easy to forget how truly fortunate we are to have the abundance of food we are offered each week at Shaw’s, Belmont’s and Stop and Shop. We forget, the produce we pay comparatively little for is not a given, but the result of just the right temperature, soil conditions and rain. While to some degree we can control the soil conditions, to this day, we cannot control the rain or temperatures. This any farmer will tell you is truly in the hands of God. 
How rarely do any of us make the time to reflect on the food we buy as simply a miracle of God. And yet that is what is displayed before us throughout our supermarkets and farm stands, the reality that every piece of fruit, cut of meat, vegetable and ear of corn are simply miracles of the divine, created in abundance for our needs and for our enjoyment.
Barbara Brown Taylor in her book, An Altar In the World, invites her reader to bless all that they encounter as part of her chapter on the practice of blessing. The right of blessing is not reserved simply for the priest or bishop, she writes, but that each of us innately has the ability to offer our blessing upon everything we encounter. The act of blessing, she states, is not for the purposes of making something holy, for it already is. The act of blessing is the recognizing of the holy within the context of the mundane. 
This is what Thanksgiving is meant to be about. Our earliest fore bares, chose a day at the end of their first harvest on American soil to offer thanks to God for the bounty of their harvest. They knew that their very survival and their hope of survival in the year to come was dependent on the grace of God and the bounty the earth had produced for them. Their first year on American soil was not easy. They saw the loss of half of the adults who had traveled with them on the Mayflower. In the midst of loss and grief they gathered, as they gave thanks for those who had survived and for the blessing of the fruits of God’s abundance.
Nearly four hundred years later, we continue to do the same, to set apart a day at the end of the harvest to step back from the busyness of our lives and to acknowledge the hand of God. It is the day we set aside to offer gratitude and bless the Holy that is contained in that which protects us from the elements, for the miracle of the food that nourishes our bodies, and for the bonds of friendship and family which carry us through the storms of life.
All things truly do come of thee O Lord, and of thine own we give thanks for on this Thanksgiving eve.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s