Pecan trees bear fruit every two years, or so I was told. We have two in our front yard, which is my visual horizon during the day. When I look up from my computer, I can literally see pecan nuts falling off the trees.
This year, our trees produced a lot of nuts. Pecans are hard to shell. But they are tasty and apparently much wanted. We faithfully collected our nuts—and so did strangers.
Imagine this: I am sitting at my desk and repeatedly, I see a man or a woman or several people in my yard, collecting nuts.
We have enough nuts for the whole neighborhood—sharing didn’t bother me. But I was disturbed by their presence in my yard, wandering around my daughter’s swing, walking right up to my window, lingering on my driveway. These folks were in my space. I had not invited them into my bubble. I didn’t even know them!
My reaction to the pecan collectors intrigues me. I felt disturbed, disconcerted, threatened maybe? As somebody who proclaims the gift of relationships all day long, shouldn’t I have been happy that these nuts attract all these folks into my yard? Could I have welcomed their presence as an invitation to engage in some real-life and in-person conversations?
Much worse for my ego: I am quick to condemn those who refuse to welcome refugees, those who resist the encounter with the other. But isn’t my reaction akin to the fears and anxieties that strangers—be they pecan collectors, people of another faith or race, or people with intellectual disabilities—can produce in all of us?
As I was sitting there, watching the scene, I secretly wished that one of my L’Arche Atlanta pals—John, Terry or Patrick—were sitting by my side to help me out. I wonder what they would have done. Create a spontaneous pecan fiesta? Greet every collector with a handshake? Help them find the pecans hidden in the mulch? Probably!
After the horrible terrorist attack in Paris, Jean Vanier said: “We are challenged to offer small gestures of love and forgiveness. We can only start doing this in the depths of our everyday life, by being more present to others.”
In this season of thanksgiving, quiet prayer, and blessings, I give thanks for my lesson learned. I give thanks for pecans and strangers, who challenge me to grow. I hold our core members in the light and give thanks for them as role models for a more open and unified society. I am grateful for Jean Vanier’s message and the mission of L’Arche, both so needed in our world.
Advent blessings and season’s greetings to all of you, friends, supporters, members, investors, and believers!
L’Arche USA National Leader/Executive Director