Gleaning: Letting Lockdown Prepare Us to be a BlessingMelanie Mokgatla
An (unforeseen) Opportunity to Practice Simplicity, Generosity and Being Ready to be a Blessing
Social media and modern-day news cycles push striking images in front of us relentlessly. These emotive photos can push us into a corner where we can feel overwhelmed by the need and we can feel stuck in lockdown, forbidden to help. Or we may be getting a feed of positive ‘everything will be alright’ messages. We must recognize, however, that the physical need of those who are vulnerable, those who have lost their jobs, is growing at this time. We don’t know how much will be needed after lockdown, but we can get ready to be generous when it is over.
This call to be generous is not surprising, given the extent of the needs around us in our city and nation. What is beautiful to see in God’s Kingdom is how we mature when we give. And so, this time of lockdown may have some unexpected opportunities to grow. I want to highlight just two of the ways in which our character can be refined through the exercise of gleaning.
Gleaning might not be a word that you are familiar with. Simply put, it is collecting the leftovers that are not economically profitable and putting those bits to use elsewhere.
This practice is seen in scripture when the fields were being harvested in the Old Testament. The Levitical law stated that the corners of the field were not to be harvested – neither could you go back a second time to gather or pick up what had fallen to the ground. These bits were reserved for the poor, orphan, widow and foreigner (Lev 19:9-10). Nestled into the heart of God’s people is to be a generosity that is a blessing to others. We don’t often see the full consequences of our gleaning. The Biblical character of Boaz (Ruth 2) met his future wife Ruth gleaning his fields. Whilst being obedient to the law, he didn’t know that he and Ruth would be mentioned later on in scripture: in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:5). The great grandmother and grandfather of King David, the family line of the Messiah, were blessed as they sought to bless others.
The more we live in accordance with his character and his ways for our lives, the more we grow, develop and reflect him. There are two areas of character growth that gleaning in lockdown can bring: generosity and simplicity. We have covered generosity in another blog, so please have a look if you haven’t read it yet.
As for simplicity, Richard Foster and Mark Scandrette define it as: “an inward reality that can be seen in an outward lifestyle” of “choosing to leverage time, money, talents and possessions toward what matters most.”
When we look around our homes, how much of what we have stored is being fully utilized? Are there items that have not been touched, or used in ages? What of what you have could be better used by a another person after lockdown? Gleaning helps us to simplify our lives, telling our hearts that our stuff is not our master, that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his/her possessions”(Luke 12:15).
What does modern day gleaning look like? Well, you might not have a field that others can harvest off, but you are very likely to have items in your household that can be repurposed, cleaned up and given to someone who cannot afford to purchase it. By simply going through the ‘field’ of your household, and redirecting items to others, you are practicing modern-day gleaning.
You may be saying, “Great idea, but once we do this big sort, where can I take these items?” Good question. Think of places and spaces that your family has connections with that could use the items you have. If you’re at a loss of who could use your items, ask your pastor or life group/small group leader at your church. Build an impact in your neighbourhood through this project and be ready to seek relationship and bless others. Ideally, this is a practice you and your family do regularly and maintain an attitude of generosity through gleaning throughout the year and keep your eyes open for needs in your community.
Here’s a suggestion for the whole family to participate in gleaning:
1. Set a timer for an amount of time appropriate for the age group
2. Pick a category to sort (suggestions below)
3. Set out 3 sorting areas:
Keep – Give-away – Throw-away
(Keep in mind that we want to give with dignity. If something is too worn or unusable, think about fixing it before giving it away or discarding it. You should be proud to give this gift to someone else – not just look to get rid of it because it’s ‘junk.’)
4. Turn some music on and release your gleaning crew to spaces where they can find things to donate! Make it like a scavenger hunt or a race to find as many things as you can in the allotted time. Ready, set, glean!
5. Once the time is up, come back together and celebrate what was gleaned. Pray for the people who will receive these items.
Here are a few categories of items that we know are in shortage in our spheres of work at Common Good.
• Clothing – baby clothes, children’s clothes, adult business wear, shoes, coats/jackets (even more helpful in gender categories and sizes – eg adult woman small, child male size 10-12)
• Stationery – pencils (no shorter than 10cm), pens, crayons, erasers, etc (if your child needed it in school, another child in another school would most likely need it too.)
• Books – kids books (ABCs, educational, bed-time reading), novels for teens, Bibles
• Sporting equipment – bats, gloves, balls, helmets, etc (think PT at school)
HINTS & TIPS
• Do this as a mini-project so it’s fun and manageable. Don’t bite off more than you can glean in a short amount of time or this exercise of generosity could become more frustrating than helpful for your family. Remind your family that this is for others; this is about being others-centered!
• Have an adult approve of the pile of goods to be donated (if kids are involved in this process)
• Package your soon to be donated items in boxes or cloth bags (not plastic bags that resemble piles of rubbish)
• If donating clothing, please package according to size and label clearly
• If donating books, please categorize and label clearly which age-group the books would be appropriate
• Consider writing a note or prayer for the receiver and putting it in the box!
• When ready to give these gifts, approach places like a local school, creche, or homeless ministry. Ask if they need such items and don’t just dump them at their step. Spend some time getting to know the institution and show genuine care for the people there.
We acknowledge that we’re in an unprecedented time where we’re not able to gift these gleanings right away – but we will have opportunity to give in due course. We believe God will show individuals where they can contribute and be a blessing. Again, if you need help in identifying those places in the near future, contact your church or a local non-profit and make connections to local spaces where your gleanings can be of use.
Now, go glean and be a blessing!