Season and mists and mellow fruitfulness. Fruitfulness concerns us at this time of year, and we like it! Mists also feature, and maybe we like them less. Harvest— time is upon us, and in communities like ours, the point of harvest is pretty obvious. Some of us (I suppose I should say ‘some of you’, since I’ve never been a farmer) work very hard indeed to gather the harvest of the earth to give us our food, and food for the animals we depend on one way or another. Fruit of the earth also provide the essentials for much of the stuff we pour down our throats: tea, coffee, beer, lager, gin, whisk(e)y, … even ‘coke’ (don’t get me going on the Coca-Cola industry). So it’s understandable and proper to pause to be thankful for what the God-given earth, and God-given natural processes of the cosmos, do for us.
Imagine, though, for a moment what a city dweller who has never set foot outside the city thinks of Harvest. What about schoolchildren who think milk comes from bottles and are disgusted to find it comes from an animal’s breast? What about people who have no idea that there is a connexion between what they eat in McDonald’s and the stuff they tread in, or drops on them, when they go for walk in the fields, if they do? We can also use this time of year to celebrate the harvest of the hands, eyes, ears and brains. The skill of the craftsman who produces beautiful things; the creativity of the novelist, the painter, the musician; the brain-work of the scientist that improves our quality of life and helps us to know more about the world around us; the work of family providers who ‘harvest’ their families and enable them to make their way in the world. All this is Harvest as well—the harvest of the spirit and mind.
The Olympics have finished. Media gurus already bore us with the next ones in London that we will have to pay for. Olympic medal winners are hailed as heroes. As I go about my daily work in Barlow, Old Brampton, Cutthorpe, Holme Hall, and Linacre Woods, I see a different set of heroes. I see people who bear long-term illness. I see people who care for the long-term sick. I see people who care for family members significantly disabled since birth. I see people who look after churches, churchyards, village halls, community resources and so on—all for no material reward. I see so much generosity of spirit, and beauty of human nature, that I am ashamed at my own cynicism. I was in hospital last month with breathing difficulties, and I saw real heroes in neighbouring beds, much worse off than me, who bore truly and evidently life-threatening conditions with great dignity, calm and forbearance. All these folk are real heroes, folk who bear what has to be borne (that is the true meaning of ‘suffer’), and who’ve not had vast resources lavished on them to help them to be heroes. These real heroes light the way for others, and to these real heroes who display the divine light that is within every one of us, I say thank you.