The day before, I had driven to Creston from the coast. It was a grueling 14 hour drive. As dinner time approached, I realized how very hungry I was and pulled over at the first roadside diner I saw. I purchased a deluxe burger with fries and a coffee to go, and climbed back into my car. I reached into the take-out box containing my dinner and pulled out the greasiest hamburger I had ever met. In the few short minutes between purchasing the burger and reaching for it, the bottom bun was absolutely saturated with grease, and totally inedible. I sighed, nibbled cautiously at the fries, and gingerly sipped my burnt tasting coffee.
The next day in Creston, as I drove to my new church office I became aware of a rather unpleasant odour wafting up from the take out box still perched on the passenger seat. When I arrived at the office, I tossed the offending package into the first municipal garbage container I saw.
The morning passed quickly with a whirlwind of new names and faces, lots of hugs and cheerful welcomes. When the initial rush dwindled, I glanced at the clock and realized it was lunchtime, so off to the bakery I went. The bakery is one door down from the church office, and enroute I passed the garbage container I had earlier tossed my hamburger into. The take out box was gone.
I cautiously prodded the top most coffee containers and disposable packaging with my pen, thinking … hoping … that the take out box containing my inedible hamburger was merely covered with other discarded items. The take out box was definitely gone.
I realized that the gaily printed packaging on the box would easily have attracted someone’s eye, and that the box was clearly a container for take out food. And I realize how very hungry and desperate for protein someone would need to be to see that box and identify its contents as a potential meal. With a heavy heart, I stood on the sidewalk and wept.
I realized the depths of my own privilege, driving across the province without a second thought. Casually stopping at roadside diners for food. Munching the food I liked. Discarding food I disliked so easily. And even as I stood there, realizing how I take for granted walking down the street to a restaurant of my choice for yet another meal.
Since that day, my heart has been lightened considerably as I came to know the depths of care and compassion in the hearts of my parishioners, their passion for justice, and their hot lunch, thrift store, refugee support and many other ministries created to create safe spaces for vulnerable people in the community.
Since that day, learning about the care and support provided by many other organizations, businesses and individuals in this wonderful community has also lightened my heart. In all my years in ministry, and being part of ministerial associations in every community I have served, Creston’s ministerial stands out for the wide scope of support provided to the community. The Christmas hamper drive, the choir performances, the year round outreach all combine to share love and light throughout the Creston Valley.
I am reminded of a quote from A.W. Streane incorporating a teaching from the Talmud(Ethics/Chapters of the Fathers 2:16) “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
It is both delight and privilege to be part of a community with such a clear intention to share the love. Some days the amount of work to do feels daunting, but if I close my eyes and imagine all the other helping hands and hearts around me, I gain new strength and commitment. We may not complete the work in our lifetimes, but I have no fear that it will ever be abandoned.