Ask someone about the word “gleaning” and they would probably will explain it in terms of sifting through documents, press clipping, or surfing the Internet for information.
But the word gleaning has a rich tradition in the Bible meaning the collection of the leftovers in the field or vineyard after a harvest. Farmers are told not to reap the very edges of the field or to strip their vineyard bare, but to leave enough to feed the poor. Gleaning is at the center of the story of Ruth.
In the Episcopal church we say all the time, “Let not the needy, Oh Lord, be forgotten; nor the hope of the poor be taken away.”
Despite the many food banks, homeless shelters, and school lunch programs in our communities, our country continues to have a significant poverty and hunger problem. Gleaning is an obligation that we all have, as is the obligation to not let the “needy be forgotten” or “the hope” be taken away.
As you begin this week of meditations, ask yourself what sits unused or will spoil or rust in your pantry, closet, or garage that might, just might, feed a child, warm a fellow human, or provide hope to someone less well off. Consider opening up your home to an old fashion “gleaning.” You just might one day discover a “Ruth” was in your field and your generosity gave her “hope” and a a feeling of not being “forgotten.”