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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Veteran's Day Memoir

by Tom Pappas

Last evening we drove 100 miles to see our granddaughters, twin 9 year-olds, in their school’s vocal music program. The travel went well and with time to spare we found a parking space and walked to the high school auditorium.  I had spent several moments during the day imagining the excitement that was building in our girls, and all the kids.  When we entered the foyer we were hit by the electric sound of children wired to the max.

We made our way to the roomy, modern auditorium and it tingled with chatter and laughter. Grades three, four and five filled the first several rows. We found excellent seats in the exact middle and were told by Harley that she could see us from the stage because we were directly under a light. That was satisfying. She and Brett were also in the middle.

I found myself feeling grateful for the appropriateness of the program on Veteran’s Day. Songs popularized during the different wars provided the theme. Brett had wished for Yankee Doodle but the third graders did that one. Fourth grade got Boogie Woogie Bugle Boys.

All the grades sang the songs for the individual branches of the armed service and vets were asked to stand while their anthem was sung. Each was given a small flag.

We went directly to a frozen yogurt place and I was overwhelmed with the options. There were 18 flavors of frozen yogurt – then toppings – then fruit – then syrups. They weighed your cup and you paid by the total weight.

While we ate our creations and visited, grandma and grandpa tried to get some Christmas gift ideas. This was marginally successful except for a statement from Harley, which turned out to be an early gift to me. “Can you think of something you’d like for Christmas?”

“I want to be surprised.”

I have gratitude for a nine-year-old who isn’t obsessing about the material options that we know are being presented to all of us.

I have gratitude for the promise and innocence of children. I am thankful for the magic of music. I have gratitude our country and its freedom to love and worship God in the way each of us finds the most meaningful.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Prayer for the Farmers

by Angier Brock

Among my favorite vendors at our weekly summer farmer’s market is a trio of siblings who come each Saturday morning from their family farm across the river. I started out buying their fresh eggs. With yolks so richly colored that they approach orange (if you have ever eaten fresh eggs, you know what I mean), those eggs are amazingly delicious. I have also bought chickens—whole ones as well as parts—from these young farmers (the chickens are as tasty as the eggs) as well as some of the breads, cookies, and granola that they make. 

Last weekend, some friends and I visited their farm where the family was holding an open house. “It’s good to know your farmer,” the father smiled, directing us to the place where the farm tours would begin and promising cookies and hot cider at the tour’s end.

Yes, it is good to know your farmer. Of course, most of what I eat comes from hands of anonymous laborers and from places that are much more distant than a thirty minute drive into the next county. In large measure, I don’t know the names or faces of the people who raise the food I eat, or of those who process it, deliver it to my area, and put it up on the grocery shelves. And so I feel especially grateful for knowing at least this one family. I am glad I can call each of them by name—and that they can call me by mine. I admire the hard daily work they put into raising food. I appreciate the respectful philosophy of husbandry they espouse, and I especially applaud their humane and healthful practices. I also feel humbled by their commitment to their call—seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, in both rain and sun, no matter how hot or cold.   

We are not all called to be farmers who provide food for the table, but each of us is called to cultivate something to help nourish our own souls and bodies as well as to nourish our families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our communities. Our call might involve teaching, making art or music, tending the sick, working for justice, caring for the earth, building or restoring something, keeping lines of communication open, volunteering for an organization that helps others, fostering faith, or keeping hope alive. It might include sharing our financial resources as well as our time and energy. We may not collect eggs each morning, but as we live and work and pray, we can strive to let God’s Spirit, working in and through us, grow its fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

And particularly at this time of year when it is traditional to celebrate bringing the harvest home, we can give thanks—not only for that harvest but also for the farmers.