Hunger We Can Help Fill {Stooping Low}

The “crowd” is small. But, disappointment in the turnout is quickly replaced with a reminder of the ripples. It doesn’t take a boulder to ripple the water; it takes a pebble. And while the room is mostly empty, perhaps there’s a pebble in the audience who desires change, who feels called to this purpose.

She says the pastor is unavailable to share about the community garden, so a gentleman she’s affectionately nicknamed Gardner Bob will share. As he walks forward, I place my hand to my heart in an “oh, isn’t he sweet” way. He is just what you imagine…older, white-haired, dusty from garden work.

And so very wise.

Gardner Bob tells us the story of the gardens.

His church purchased an apartment building that later had to be torn down.  Because the fill dirt over the former building basement wasn’t packed properly, rebuilding or paving the land wasn’t an option. The land stood empty until the pastor planted a few tomato plants, and the idea of a community garden was born.

Not just any community garden, but a garden for those in need.

Every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 3:00 pm, Bob places the fruits of his labor in the stand at the garden’s entrance, and the vegetables are free for the taking. Bob says they don’t police who takes what. He trusts that whomever comes gathers only what he or she needs.

And if you’re wondering how Gardner Bob cares for two large gardens that produce over 7,000 pounds of food each year all by himself, get this..

The garden is planted, picked, watered, and weeded by inmates from the local correctional center.

Awesome, huh? Gardner Bob isn’t just offering valuable vegetables to those who need them, but he’s also providing spiritual food as he works alongside inmates each week, listening to their stories, offering them a meal, and loving them well.

Bob tells us of his conversations with the inmates as they plant and pick. Their thankfulness for hamburgers and chips during the lunch break. Their stories of mistakes made and punishment applied. He reminds us the “criminals” who come to complete community service hours at the gardens are human beings, made in God’s image.  I can tell he enjoys his time with them. He says, “I treat them as if they are from any other job agency.”

Bob sums his gardens up in one sentence:  “We wanted to produce food, but I think there’s another hunger we can help fill.”

gardener-bob-use

As I listened to Bob speak, I think of all the seed planting and fruit producing language in the Bible. Of the parables and the reaping and sowing. But, when I sit down to write, all I can see is Gardner Bob quietly serving and sacrificing each day to give food to those in need and to love those who are down and out.

Bob is past retirement age. He could be sitting on his porch, watching the sunset, and sipping sweet tea. But Bob bends over day after day, stooping low to pick vegetables and love others.

Isn’t that just like Jesus? Who stoops low to love an outcast. Who eats with tax collectors and sinners. Who loves and serves the least of these. Who plants seeds of love and hope in all who meet him.

And Bob doesn’t stoop because he’s above and they’re below. He stoops because that’s where he can serve. That’s where the fruit is. That’s where he can love. That’s what Jesus did. And perhaps we are most like Jesus when we stoop.

I pray I always take the time to notice. To bend down and give a helping hand. To bend down and listen and to love . I am not sure what to do with what I heard from Gardener Bob last night. But, I pray God leads me to a life of stooping.

 

Psalm 113: 4-8

The Lord is exalted over all the nations,

   his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God,

   the One who sits enthroned on high,

who stoops down to look

   on the heavens and the earth?

He raises the poor from the dust

   and lifts the needy from the ash heap;

 he seats them with princes,

   with the princes of his people.

 

{Thanks to Stacy DeCicco, the United Way, and the Mountaineer Food Bank for introducing to me Gardener Bob and giving me the privilege of seeing The Starfish Throwers. May we all be Difference Makers!}

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