Times are tough, but not, Thank God, Depression Era tough. My grandparents lived through those hard times and anytime we had a “recession” would laugh, a little when younger people started making Depression comparisons. This was a time when you were glad to have some connection to the family farm so you could go to the country and get food.
Food was cheap, but there was not enough cash to buy the food. Families would knock on the door and Christian people fed them. This was their moral duty!
Nana told me that once as she was making dinner a lady knocked on the door and said she was starving. Nana invited her to share in what she was cooking for dinner. “What are you having?” the woman asked my grandmother. This raised some suspicion since starving people generally are not very choosy.
“Beans.” Nana responded.
“I don’t like beans,” she replied, “could you fry me some eggs?”
This was, so far as I can recall, where the conversation ended. Nana chose not to cook a new dinner for the “starving” woman and the “starving” woman chose not to eat beans or at least the fixings.
I think of this whenever my temptation is to look at this pandemic time and think: “This is the worst. I cannot take this anymore.”
And then someone comes to bless us, but I have to wear a mask for the meeting, and I think (God forgive me!): “This mask is itchy.”
I should take the beans.
When the plastic mask I am wearing to serve communion fogs up from my breath so I cannot see and I get irritable, I should take the beans and be grateful.When I get to the store and the meat I want is not available at a price we can afford as a family, I should grab the chicken livers or (literally) just eat some beans.
Life in pandemic time is not as we wish, no need to deny the irritation and our real desires. A better time would have allowed that woman to have some fried eggs and potatoes, yet I cannot wonder if that would really have helped her life. She wanted what she wanted and could not be happy with what life was offering. She could have shared a meal with a wonderful family, but she chose to be irritable because she could not get what she wanted.
She need not have denied her preferences, just not have allowed them to keep her from another good. Of course, she also was asking my Nana to serve her, as if Nana were her cook, in ways that defied charity and were (in all probability) not doable. Eggs, like any food, were hard to get and so demanding particular meals from your host was unkind.
If I cannot be happy with beans, I can still eat them and enjoy what is good in the charity of the kind woman who shared her family’s dinner with me.
Jesus was right: it is more happy, more God blessed, to give than to receive. Sometimes in hard times, we are too selfish, too stuck on our own wants, to bless others by receiving the beans they have to give. As a pastor, Dad often got gifts, some of them were not to his (or Mom’s taste!). He would bring them home, have a chuckle, and then enjoy them because of the goodness behind the gift. We got joy out of some dubious art this way: Dad and Mom ate the beans thankful for the charity behind the pot if not for the beans.*
*I will note that my Dad makes a very delicious pot of pinto beans and I have eaten more than my share many times. Pinto beans are God’s gift.