Fields of green beans and a black lunch pail

Published 6:30 am Saturday, September 25, 2021

“Have your roots and foundation in love.” (Ephesians 3:17)

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe’s poem, “As a man soweth”:

“We must not hope to be mowers,

And to gather the ripe golden ears,

Unless we have first been sowers,

And watered the furrows with tears.

It is not just as we take it,

This mystical world of ours,

Life’s field will yield as we make it,

A harvest of thorns or of flowers.”

There is a field that is captured in my mind from my junior high and high school years. The man that is looking at a crowd of green bean harvesters is Austin Wolney, a young farmer. The mode of transportation was a truck with rails surrounding a large flat floor and has two seats. In it sat Austin and his wife Carol and her cheerfulness seemed to say, “I love this farm!”  She helped us teenagers, some with black lunch pails, onto the bed of the truck. We were about three miles from the farm in the country and acres of green beans greeted us. “Time to get picked and put into your pails,” they seemed to be saying.

Some of what has happened in our younger years is a blur, but often the blur is broken like a tree falling on our picnic table — we can see things, feel events like a drizzle at a football game. I recall going down the rows of green beans. Picking, filling a pail, dumping it into a gunny sack and taking it to a scale where Austin would write down the number of pounds we picked next to our names on a tablet.

A few of us neighborhood friends who rode the flatbed truck back to our central Wisconsin city would hop off and head for the A&W Root Beer stand almost at a run. Money in hand, not one, but two root beer floats would compensate for the day of hot sun burrowing through the wide-brimmed straw hats we wore. In those days, did all the youth have a job during the summer months? Employment for people of every age is a necessity.

Those who are on food stamps or other public assistance are part of our human family. We hope they search and find work that can support themselves. And those who hire them, I hope they find ways to grant a living wage with benefits.

Today is a time to think of the children we brought into this world out of our passion and love to create other human beings. We made movements to give our children a decent future.

We care for those children all the days that life grants them. Even the dental appointments are part of the responsibility. I can tell my dentist of one of his colleagues who appeared in a courtroom. The judge, noting his profession, recited the customary question, “Do you swear to tell the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth?”

Moving to the education of our children, I’m mindful that affection, when withheld, can often result in the behaviors that shatter a classroom. An example of humane teaching and creating a proper atmosphere was in an article in the May 2021 issue of “The Sun.” M. Jones is a teacher who lives in the American Southwest. She writes of some of her experiences with her students, “Beyond the American and state flags in the courtyard, the mesa is shrouded in gray clouds and rain smokes in the gullies.” Of the students she writes, “I would tell them, and they would understand, because they trust me. When I tell, for instance, that Beatrice was the great love of Dante’s life, and also the poet’s symbol for celestial wisdom, they know it is true. When I tell them I care about them, they know this is true too. It is an immense power I have, of which I daily prove myself unworthy.”

I am puzzled, but not too puzzled, for I realize that for any of us to have power within a group, within a family, within an organization, we must have humility. This teacher, Ms. Jones, among her gifts, has qualities that we nurture.

An orientation of a religious life is the desire to turn hate into understanding, resentment into the shedding of hurt, woundedness into healing, and scars into a gentle reminder, “I’ve been there.”

The book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” contains a line, “Both of them remained floating in an empty universe, where the only everyday and eternal reality was love.”

My thoughts in this essay have moved from lunch out of a black lunch box in a bean field to a classroom. Life is good! Life has multiple challenges.

“Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise.” (Phillippians 4:8)