Sunday, February 3, 2013

Benevolent Boaz

Farmer Bill down the road came up to the village the other day to offer anyone who so desired access to one of his paddocks to pick his remaining crop of peas the harvesters had left behind. They had their quota, so his generous offer was taken up by quite a few during the next couple of days. Toting my buckets, off I went after work with a couple of others, picking first in the patches by the track before heading for the main patch, as most on the edge had been squashed by the machinery and thistles were getting in the way.

About a hectare of luscious peas awaited us, and no matter how long we stayed we didn’t even make a dent. Such a treat to have fresh peas, plus the bonus of being able to share bagfuls with family and friends who were unable to get there was just as enjoyable. Only a handful have made it to the cooking stage so far, I love eating them straight from the pod tossed in salads or as a snack while watching telly.

Little did Farmer Bill know, his offer was actually a very biblical thing to do. In biblical times it was customary for landowners to leave a portion of their crop behind after harvesting so widows and orphans, and the poor and needy could come in to glean what they needed so they wouldn’t go hungry.

The book of Ruth in the Old Testament relates such a story, where Ruth left her own family and country behind after being widowed, and journeyed with her mother in law Naomi to resettle back in Naomi’s homeland. Also widowed, and with both sons having died, Naomi had no one to care for her, so Ruth offered to gather grain for them in the hope of finding work. Quite by chance she ended up in Boaz’s field, where she was treated especially well and given protection and permission from Boaz to pick grain with his workers. Unbeknown to her, Boaz was a close relative of Naomi’s, and therefore responsible to care for his relative’s family.

Naomi started the wheels turning on her plan of action which, if successful, would secure a future for both of them, and through their eventual marriage, Ruth and Boaz became part of the ancestral line that led to the birth of Jesus some thirty generations later.

On my hands and knees picking peas I felt my age and wondered how the travelling backpacking pickers do it for weeks or months on end. An hour was enough for me, but Ruth’s story came to mind as I filled my buckets. I wasn’t looking round for a Boaz, but was thankful for Farmer Bill’s generosity.

We’ve become accustomed to witnessing incredible community response in times of natural disaster such as we’ve seen lately with the fires and floods. Help comes from all quarters to support those who have suffered such devastating loss. It seems to take a dramatic event to bring out the best in us to respond to the needs of others, but I find it encouraging that not only in times of such terrible upheaval, that same community spirit can be equally evident.

Groups such as SecondBite who source surplus food from wholesalers, farmers, supermarkets and the like and distribute it to food programs which support those in need, don’t wait for disaster to strike. They are aware of the daily struggle many have to simply provide the basics of life, so through their diligence and efficiency food which once would have been wasted goes to those who really need it.

It’s encouraging to know the principle and value which was so much a part of Boaz’s culture several centuries ago is still alive and well.