May You Have Enough

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            My heart and days are really full right now.  We’re greeting and befriending our new staff, trying to help everyone get settled and start to feel at home in Tunisia.  Many of them are already dear friends with whom we’ve worked before and those who are new to us will clearly be part of our extended family as well.  It’s a funny time to come and try to get settled in Tunis, though, because it’s the month of Ramadan and during daylight hours, it’s as though food and even water don’t exist.  Generally busy tourist areas in town feel as deserted as Tombstone in the noonday desert heat.  I’ve appointed myself as a feeder:  one who tries to keep some meals coming and also provide some communal time to sit together each day, build our friendships, and network for the next day.  Each day has a slight tension between a food deprivation feeling and then the huge abundance of cooking for 25 people. 
            I’m watching my buddies at The Perennial Plate today.  I’m a few episodes behind and catching up with California Gleaning  (episode 64).  This project really took me back to an August about 25 years ago now when Allan and I needed just a little community food support to get through a couple of months.  Allan had been hired to begin his first teaching job in September and we would be able to expect a paycheck at the end of that month, but this was early August and the restaurant where both of us had been working up until then suddenly closed and we were immediately unemployed.  Allan’s parents had some wooded property in the county and offered to let us cut firewood to sell and make our little house payment of about $300.00.  All we had to do additionally was feed ourselves.
 We learned a lot that summer about creative sources for finding free food.  First of all, there was a gleaning program where people could go to fields after they had been harvested and collect what was left.  I remember picking green beans, cucumbers, and peaches and going home to can them in jars, the windows of our tiny house dripping with condensation as I kept gallons of water boiling for hours giving the jars a water bath to make them seal. 
Next, there were free blocks of cheddar cheese through a local food bank.  One of those was enough to last us a long time.
Finally, Allan and I, both growing up on farms and having a level of understanding of where meat comes from, called on the absolutely free ads in the newspaper where people were giving away chickens, rabbits, turkeys, and other edible animals that they didn’t want to raise any longer, but couldn’t eat themselves.  We drove out to the houses to pick up the give aways, implying, but not outright saying that we were going to keep them as pets.  I’m sorry, I know some of you needed to believe that this was the ongoing story of your Easter bunny.  We waited to do the butchering until it got dark so as not to traumatize the little children in our neighborhood who hung around our house most days. 
It was a great time, in retrospect.  We had such a direct one-to-one relationship with resources:  cut wood=house payment, harvested chicken or cucumbers=dinner.  I don’t remember being panicked about our means and it was interesting to fill our days scouting out what we needed and then preparing it to eat.  I only wish we had had access to the beautiful overflow of produce seen in the Napa Valley gleaning program, but I was touched by the affluent women who began this program because they believed that all people need to eat fresh, healthy food and that their bodies and spirits will both be enriched by it.  It all made me think of a Tibetan blessing I read once in Kathmandu:  May you have enough.  That is really a happy amount to have.

One thought on “May You Have Enough

  1. As a recipient of the meals this week, I can't tell you enough how grateful we are to you and the other staff members who have extended themselves in gracious, hospitable ways. It has made our landing here, while not a soft one, a very warm, friendly and authentic one:)

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