Updated: Aug 22, 2020
The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But -- and this is the point -- who gets excited by a mere penny?...It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
One of the many gifts of working alongside families from other countries, particularly those from Latin America where the climate and ecology are fairly similar to ours, is finding out that many of the plants that I think of as weeds and diligently rip out of the ground whenever I see them are actually delicious.
For instance, here is a common type of clover. You probably have dozens of these plants in your yard at the moment. I was surprised to learn that, eaten raw, they taste strongly of lemon.
Here is a group of yucca plants growing on the riverwalk. Apparently, the flowers are very tasty in soup.
The leaves of both of these plants, for which I don't know any common names besides "weeds," are good boiled and eaten with lemon and salt.
And here is a the fruit of a passion vine that often smothers other, much more elegant, plants. The crunchy seeds are encased in a sweet and sour jelly-like coating, giving them what I imagine is similar to the texture of frog's eggs but delicious.
After learning to identify these plants, I found them all within a couple of blocks of our church, all growing in the margins and unattended spaces. As Annie Dillard says, "The world is in fact planted in pennies."
We see so little and miss so much. We are actually surrounded by nourishment. It literally grows up through the cracks in the sidewalk.
But cultivating a healthy poverty in order to broaden our awareness doesn't come easily. We have to turn away from the daily temptations vying for our attention and the lies trying to pull us down and listen closely for God's voice. We have to refocus on gratitude for all of the glimpses of God's kingdom and the miracles of creation that wait quietly to be found.
Through prayer, we can listen better to ourselves, to God, and to each other. Through prayer, we can recognize all of the gifts that we have been given. Prayer helps us to see the wonders that are overflowing all around us.
Many of the refugee families that have come through our church come from a place of worldly impoverishment. They are utterly impoverished in all of our traditional meanings of the word. But we have much to learn from them about being rich in the pennies that matter.
by Dianne Garcia, Pastor of Family Ministry
P.S. Just a note to please not go out eating whichever weeds look the yummiest. Some of these pictures may not be good enough as identification tools!