By Kathy Bunse
An autumn breeze tossed pale leaves and husks into the air. They twirled about briefly, then fell to the ground. Beige stubble marked where rows of green stalks grew tall through the summer. Today, as I walked around the stubble and through the carpet of leaves and husks, I noticed some stalks still standing at the edge of the field and in one area. Why weren’t they harvested?
Perhaps they were too close to the fence to be captured by the combine. The area further out in the field could have been too wet or rough for the farmer to access safely. Maybe, this corn was purposely left in the field.
Seeing these remnant rows reminded me of the Old Testament story of Ruth and the Israelite practice of gleaning. Stalks of grain were left for traveling strangers and the poor to harvest. Gleaning was one way they fulfilled God’s command to extend hospitality to strangers, aliens and those in need.
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God. Lv. 19:9-10
Ruth, a foreigner from Moab, and her Jewish mother-in law, Naomi, were both poor widows. Ruth gleaned in the barley fields of Boaz, a relative of Naomi. Through Ruth’s diligent work and Boaz’ kindness, both women had more than enough to eat.
It’s doubtful that anyone would come to this out-of-the-way cornfield to gather these tough, dry kernels. Better sources of food are available.
However, to deer and geese, rows of corn look like a long banquet table. They come to feast, along with many other animals, from raccoons to rodents. Wild animals know how to make the bounty of this field last through the winter. With their bellies full, they’ll leave to seek shelter. Field mice won’t have to go far. They can burrow beneath the leaf litter, safe from chilly winds. God’s wild creatures are welcome to glean among these remnant rows.