The holidays are mostly behind us. We stare into our refrigerators now, looking for leftovers while they last. The cakes and cookies were the first to go, followed by anything we could put into a sandwich. Now we are left with items requiring a bit more creativity.
Behold, the humble can of cranberry sauce.
It sits in the pantry awaiting another holiday meal. We heard there was a national shortage of this stuff heading into the holidays, so we bought an extra can just because, and Heaven forbid it wouldn’t be on the table with the ham or turkey this year. Now we are into January, the meats are gone, and the can sits there, staring back at us. What to do? (Stick with me here, I really do have a point to this column.)
We could simply eat it with another meal, even though it might not feel quite right. I like to use it as a spread on a turkey sandwich. Some people create fruity spreads with it. A quick internet search will give you, believe it or not, at least 65 uses! I couldn’t read it all without laughing, so I’m not even sure that all of these uses are food related. Paint tinting? Edible finger-paint? Fragrant glue? The possibilities seem endless.
If we can do so much with a commodity food, imagine what we can accomplish with several Vincentian hearts in our Conference meeting as we discuss how to help someone in need. These neighbors may not be “leftovers” but “left behinds” by others.
It may be easy to do what we have always done, help in the same small way, and move on to the next family that needs our help. Or we can look with fresh eyes and hearts at alternatives. Some may be emergency assistance gifts while other might be systemic change solutions for the longer term. Some might solve today’s problem while others look to the root causes of this person’s poverty and present situation. Some answers may be comfortable, while others will require new thinking, new resources and new partnerships.
If we approach people with the same tools, we might miss some great possibilities. If the only tool you have is a can opener, every problem becomes a can! If instead we consciously add to our Conference and personal toolbox, we are prepared when a different problem needing our help comes along.
In this New Year, let’s resolve to approach our neighbors in need not as society’s leftovers but as treasures of potential, awaiting our innovation, discernment and most of all, love, to create newly imagined lives of purpose and value.
Christ did something amazing with just a few fish and loaves of bread. What can we do for our neighbors with our Conference’s love and so many blessings? Let’s think on it, pray on it together, and then think some more. Isn’t this what we would want Christ to do for us?
Yours in Service,