Harvest and Gleanings

“One more thing,” my new Pakistani friend Shagufta (or was it her twin sister?) said “here is what Islam says about doing good deeds according the Hadith, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him:”

“Whosoever intends to do a good deed but does not do it, Allah (the Arabic name for God) records it with Himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it and does it, Allah records it with Himself as ten good deeds, up to seven hundred times, or more than that. But if he intends to do an evil deed and does not do it, Allah records it with Himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it and does it, Allah records it as one single evil deed.”

“We can only hope,” I answered as we parted ways after a truly blessed morning, thinking about how we seem to know what we sow but how we never actually know what we reap…

Blessed morning

Earlier this morning, my friend Aleksey and I hosted a pre-dawn breakfast which saw six more friends join us for a delicious Turkmen omelet with sweet peppers, tomatoes, onions and turkey bacon, and oatmeal with walnuts and dates, plus the fresh fruit salad with yogurt and fragrant bakery brought by the generous guests. We said prayers after that and listened to a couple of songs  by Shadi Toloui-Wallace:

“Attainment” from her first album, “Leather Bound Book”:

Say: “O God, my God! Attire mine head with the crown of justice, and my temple with the ornament of equity. Thou, verily, art the Possessor of all gifts and bounties.”
(Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 12)

and “When Sorrow Comes” from her second album, “Verdant Isle”.

“Dominion is God’s, the Lord of the seen and
the unseen, the Lord of creation”
(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 23)

The prayers and the company of friends inspired me to heed an invitation I had read but had not committed to:
Sorting out sweet potatoes from North Carolina for the food bank in Arlington, VA

The St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church Interfaith Committee invites you to join us and friends of various faiths for an interfaith service project to benefit the Arlington Food Assistance Center on Saturday, March 9. The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) is dedicated to obtaining and distributing groceries, free of charge, to people living in Arlington who cannot afford to purchase enough food to meet their basic needs.
We will meet at 8:00 am at AFAC’s office (2708 South Nelson St., Arlington, VA 22206) and drive to the MAGnet (Mid-Atlantic Gleaning) Warehouse in Cheltenham, MD, where we will gather and bag produce for AFAC to deliver to Arlington residents and families in need from 9:00 am until about 11:00 am.
Please join us in serving members of the Arlington community and making new friends of different faiths.

Harvest

Befriending strangers while sorting out sweet potatoes from North Carolina for the food bank in Arlington, VAHow glad I am that I joined this wonderful group of new friends! Five of us, Baha’i friends from Arlington,  carpooled to Maryland where we all worked for a couple of hours packing sweet potatoes from North Carolina and cabbage in banana cartons to be delivered to people in need.

There is truly no better way to befriend strangers than by doing service together. As we carefully surveyed the farmers’ harvest for the occasional mushy potato I talked with a number of fascinating people: from a young muslim lady from Somalia to a multilingual group of Mormons who had travelled on missions as far as Japan and Madagascar, from a Larry Page-look alike Mandarin-speaking VOA broadcaster to a sportsy beauty from the central valley of California who spoke with him in her native Cantonese, from an old Catholic friend who had attended an interfaith dinner I hosted three years ago, to a Protestant mother of three who spoke only English but with the deepest appreciation for its flexibility and inclusiveness.

Gleanings

Gratitude for a day of community serviceAs we all gathered around the full crates of produce for a group photo at the end of a productive morning, I asked the generous hosts about the choice and meaning of the word gleaning. This poetic word, the act of picking up the best of what has been left after the harvest, not unlike the way Jesus and His disciples did while roaming the Holy Land, made me think of the priceless bounty Shoghi Effendi has left us with when translating — and so appropriately titling — one of my most favorite books, the superb collection “Gleanings of the Writings of Baha’u’llah” which has this thought-provoking gem:

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.
(Baha’u’llahGleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 285)

Harvest and Gleanings, Interfaith Service Project in Arlington, VAThese interfaith neighbors of mine — newly befriended strangers — invited us to join them for lunch at the Silver Diner in Clarendon. I am fasting, of course, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to get to know them more around the table since I could talk while they enjoy their meal. What a delightful time we all had — talking about language, and culture, and traditions, and religion, and music, and raising kids, and growing up in foreign countries, and sowing, and harvesting…

As is the way my favorite Bulgarian folk tales standardly close, describing the joyous feast everybody joins at the end of a grand adventure, “I wish you were there as well” — I do! I know you wish that too, dear reader, but guess what: you too can reach out to your own neighbors, no matter what their origin and religion, do service together, and share a meal — or a conversation — while befriending some strangers too! Let me know how you like it!

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility. (Baha’u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u'llah, p. 285)

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