Sunday, March 25, 2007

Gleanings and a Dropping


Pronunciation: ‚gl‡n
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English glenen, from Middle French glener, from Late Latin glennare, of Celtic origin; akin to Old Irish doglenn he selects
Date: 14th century

intransitive senses
1 : to gather grain or other produce left by reapers
2 : to gather information or material bit by bit
transitive senses
1 a : to pick up after a reaper b : to strip (as a field) of the leavings of reapers
2 a : to gather (as information) bit by bit b : to pick over in search of relevant material ²gleaning old files for information³
3 : find out

Many years ago, in a Jewish commentary on The Torah, I encountered the concept of gleanings. It's based the transitive sense of glean as defined in definition 2 above: a gathering of bits of knowledge from the text that are often less than obvious and not readily reaped.

Usually what we glean comes from an external source, as the gleaning of the leavings of the reaper comes from the grain that has fallen from the wheat. However, I have learned that we can also glean from our own actions and thoughts what is not obvious even to us if we are willing to spend the time searching through the chaff of our lives for the gleanings on the threshing floor.

Recently Vishwa wrote about what I interpreted as "trust." Perhaps that wasn't his prime purpose, but it is what I gleaned from his words. That may be because I have been dealing with the questions of whether or not I am too trusting of people; if I allow people to take advantage of me, my grace and generosity.

When the last congregation I served decided that they could not have both a pastor and maintain their huge old church building and thus decided to keep the building while dismissing the pastor, I was spiritually wounded. I had no desire to immediately pastor another congregation or join my also wounded predecessor in retirement. I had quite a bit (for me) of money in the bank and investments and believed I would have paying employment in the near future. (After almost four years of job searching that proved to be a poor forecast).

Almost immediately after I entered the rolls of the unemployed, the ex-wife of the pastor of my home church asked my assistance in saving a night club she owned. I spent the next six or so months working with her and investing about $15,000 before she gave up and sold the club. I lost the money, even though a large part of it was in the form of (unsecured) loans. Some of my friends and my attorney told me I was a sucker to have been drawn into it. My thought and rationalization was that I had the money and she had the need and....

About the same time, I loaned a man money to open a restaurant that had been life dream. It lasted less than a year, he had a heart attack, and couldn't repay me.

In the following years, I have allowed folks to stay in my house and have been literally robbed by them. I have fed and assisted sojourners and the homeless with food, clothing, and shelter. Eventually, I began to run out of money and you know the results of that.

My gleaning from these experiences is that I may be too trusting. Or, as one of my peers tells me, that I wear a flashing neon sign on my back that draws people in need (or con artists) to me. True or not, I am faced with the reality that I would not have gotten into my present financial crisis had I not given so much of my own resources to others.

There are more gleanings from my experiences over the past four or so years that I have separated from the chaff of the threshing floor that I do not pretend to understand. One may be more of a dropping that a gleaning.

Function: noun
Date: 14th century

1 : something dropped
2 plural : dung

This dropping (2nd definition) is that every person I have aided in the past several years and who I now realize I allowed to con me or steal from me has been a drug addict or an alcoholic. I suspect that this realization is tied to my own childhood. I must work on what this means for my future.


Thomas has given me new gleanings regarding the dropping:

All suffering comes from the wish for your own happiness;
Perfect Buddhas are born from the thought to help others.
~Ngolchu Thogme Rinpoche (1295-1369)

If you ask a poor person for a sandwich, he's likely to give you part of his. If you ask a rich person for a sandwich, he's likely to tell you to tell you that he worked very hard to accumulate all his sandwiches, that he deserves all these sandwiches, and you should go get your own. - Thomas

Perhaps my sharing of what I have is not in line in the ways of this American culture, but may be the Way God intended?

We look to the day when sharing by all will me scarcity of none. (Eucharist Prayer, United Church of Christ Book of Worship)


  1. That is so true. Sad but true.


  2. I dont understand all you are saying but I do know what its like to be taken by a drug addict.

  3. You must have great treasures in Heaven, Nick...

  4. You are a good man, Nick. I'm sorry you've been taken advantage of. But I agree with Rhapsody...

  5. "...every person I have aided in the past several years and who I now realize I allowed to con me or steal from me has been a drug addict or an alcoholic. I suspect that this realization is tied to my own childhood. I must work on what this means for my future."

    You and me both, Nick. You and me both.

  6. Our "culture" centers on greed; saints center on compassion.

  7. Nick, I'm so sorry that you have been conned by people you have tried to help. I can relate to that and unfortunately, unlike you, I have become somewhat cynical. Yet, what that has done is to give me a more instinctual feeling as to whom is genuine and who is not.

    I've been approached in the street by numerous young men who all have dying or sick grandmothers. I refer them to the police emergency office and for some reason or other, they don't like that.

    I think it's a lesson for all of us, yet I don't really think I have learned it in my cynicism!

    Cheers and hugs to you and Alex.

  8. I'm glad my little blog could help. :0)

    I really don't think it's generosity that created the problems, it was not setting clear boundries. Hindsight is 20-20, of course, but a legal document spelling out expectations and responsibilities might have been a Useful Thing.

    I liked this quote by Pete Seeger, which doesn't really fit with this discussion except tangentally: "And still I'm searching… Yes I'm still searching for a way to build a world where we all can learn. To build a world where we all can share: the work, the fun, the food, the space, the joy, the pain; and no one will ever ever want or need to be a millionaire."

  9. I think Thomas is right. There is a time to draw the line. But you wouldn't be you if you just stopped helping all people because of the jerks in your past. I'm sorry you're in the state you are because of your blind generosity.