It’s blueberry season, at least where I live, and blackberry season, too. Like tomatoes on the vine and okra on the stalk, they are seasonal reminders that we live in a world of amazing abundance and variety, with much to be grateful for.
We enjoy the bounty that comes from our small garden, but also find joy in sharing figs and squash and tomatoes with friends or neighbors.
A friend of mine has taken that a step further. While he shall remain unnamed in defense of his blueberry patch and because he doesn’t do it for personal attention, he offers a beautiful example of selfless kindness in Jesus’ name.
He grows blueberries – lots of them – and does so with painstaking care. He fertilizes three times each year, cleans out the undergrowth, manages the overgrowth, mows the grass around them. And he eats and saves some, but most have another purpose.
He grows them mainly for other people, friends and acquaintances, folks like me who get a real kick out of picking fresh berries for yogurt or cereal or cobblers. Sometimes, he’ll invite a class of schoolchildren or people who have special needs.
Generally, once each year, he lets me know a time when Susan and I can come out. He tells us which bushes to pick from, taking the fattest berries and leaving the others to grow bigger and sweeter.
We usually fill a couple of strawberry buckets and eat while we pick. At home, we spread berries on cookie sheets and freeze them. Then we transfer them to plastic bags, like so many gray-blue marbles, and enjoy them for weeks afterward.
My friend won’t accept any payment for the best berries in town, but there is a condition: If you pick some for yourself, you have to give some of them away.
Take them to a new neighbor, he says, and create community. Or take them to someone who can’t get out and pick on their own. Share some with a friend who could use a little encouragement.
Doing so is a reminder that the sharing can be even more rewarding than the eating.
My friend calls the project his “blueberry ministry,” and it’s one of many ways he finds to share the love of Jesus in creative fashion.
I was raised by parents who believed the produce in our garden was meant to be shared, as did other friends and neighbors. That atmosphere of communal support is often missing in more urban settings, but around here, an intentional blueberry patch beside a busy street is building community, one juicy berry at a time.