Sitting at the table, my mom shares of the hurt, brokenness she experienced from the church body we were raised apart of. My mom is a tough lady, brooding intimidation in her former years causing tears to expel from the younger classmen on the powder puff field. Yet, with any person, only so much can be thrown at them before breaking.
When I unpack the produce & fruit from the plastic bin delivered to our door every other week, I unleash the lid as if I'm a pirate discovering my booty. The bounty within of lush green leaves speak of butter bib lettuce & lacinto kale. Kale is always abundant year around in Bellingham. Garnet red beets with forest green stems & leaves still attached. It's perfect for adding to a salad. Anjou pears with their skin turning like the sunset. A bunch of carrots, an occasional herb, along with bursting orange tangelos & Cameo apples.
My daughters love helping by unloading the bin. I say, "Be careful with your hands, especially the pears & apples." Little hands try hard to be careful, but the circumference lends to slippery drops. Pears & Apples can only take so much in those falls before bruise spots appear; while, tangelos can take more of a beating through tougher exterior. What I find though, is even the tangelos get bruised if dropped repeatedly.
The resilience isn't there. Listening to my mother's past hurt, betrayal--being told that her listening to the Spirit of God was more of devil work than holy work. Like the tangelo's skin, my mom's heart skin could appear on the outside unscathed. Yet, upon peeling back the layers, the inevitability of bruising is undeniable.
I sat, misty-eyed as I read Jeanne Murray Walker write of her hurt from community, specifically the church community she had grown to love. As she walked into the produce stand that she frequented every week, even if she didn't need anything, she found that is was through this loss of community that she was finding at this ramble shack protruding of vegetables & fruit. The people, all colors, shapes & languages congregating to nourish their family & themselves.
With her spilled produce on the floor, she writes,
An Asian teenager with tattoos, long black hair, and an earflap hat stops, bends down, picks up my produce, and plunks things back in my arms. His tattooed hand sweeps against my hand.
'Thank you,' I say in surprise.
'Hey, no problem,' he replies.
Right as she goes to the check out she eyes a woman wearing a Chanel-style coat, with a black hat & black veil, who had dropped broccoli out of her basket. Walker leans down, retrieves it and puts it back in her basket. She notes, that is what the tattooed Asian teenager taught her...to pick up spilled vegetables and "return them to their owner."
But what I find remarkable, is through her exchange with the woman.
As I put the broccoli into the woman's hands, the warmth of her hand reminds me of passing the peace...And I know, suddenly I know that I am no longer holding a grudge, that I can return to church. I stand for a minute in the middle of the people and vegetables, while foolish tears swim in my eyes. The bins blur until they shimmer like jewels.
What I know is that God speaks to us in the most unlikely settings, or through what appears as random objects, like fruit. Yet, teaching my daughters how to handle produce with care & gentleness transfers to seeing people's hearts the same way. My hands have been brutish many times, and how many times have I been a result of bruising & pushing a soul away from seeing the face of God.
But, like the peace that passes through the retrieval of fallen produce is also grace. A grace calling us back into community, to share the Eucharist with brothers & sisters.