In our world that spins on efficiency and often a grab-all-you-can-while-you-can mindset, I offer a different perspective. What if we practiced an ancient lesson on leaving a little extra that might help us loosen our hold on what we think is rightfully ours? Our time. Money. Family and friends. Really . . . our everything.
Whenever I return to America’s Heartland in the fall, I typically find myself stepping into the rich soil of a just-harvested cornfield. Scanning the remnants of the cornrows, I discover a number of “missed” corn ears scattered across the ground. These ears do not make it to the grain elevator, but they do supply the local wildlife with nourishment over winter. I love how life invites us all to leave a little extra for others.
Picking Up the Pieces
We read about this in the story of Ruth, the widowed Moabite who collected leftover crops in the fields of Boaz, a wealthy landowner. In her arduous work called gleaning (see The Gleaners oil painting by Jean-François Millet), Ruth followed behind the servant harvesters. She picked up any grain pieces they missed. Boaz noticed Ruth’s dedication and learned of her sacrifice to journey with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem instead of remaining with her own people. Boaz directed his workers to look out for Ruth and make sure she could gather sufficient grain.
“As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, ‘Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her’” (Ruth 2:15-6). Boaz modeled leaving a little extra for others. Of course, the kind and perceptive Boaz won the heart of this peasant gal and their love story led to their being ancestors of Jesus, but that’s a remarkable story for another time.
I wonder if we are all called to leave a little extra so others can glean from our insight, our possessions, our finances, our time. Maybe we share our abundance so that other people can benefit and be encouraged. Or maybe we offer more of a listening ear when we are tired or give someone else the last piece of chocolate.
On Behalf of Others
It is not easy to stretch and bend our giving nature on behalf of others when we feel overwhelmed or overcommitted. Yet perhaps this is where we harvest our greatest joys in life. Leaving a little extra leaves us with much more than we anticipated — a richness of humility and gratitude that is simply priceless.
Are we leaving just enough with the people or projects on our to-do lists or are we willing to let more of ourselves spill over a bit? Our world could use a few more Boaz types who are generous with extra grain, wisdom, or dessert. Dare we be one of them?