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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Timeless Value

By Wes Wick
Sept. 28, 2014

Do you know what culls are? Do you know how valuable they can become?

While serving with a YES! team at Gleanings for the Hungry in Dinuba, Calif., last February, I had the privilege of connecting with local farmer Gordon Wiebe and learning from his inside perspective of the summer gleaning operation.

During the winter season at Gleanings, we package dried soup mix, which is not technically a gleaning process. But as Gordon described summer and peaches, I couldn’t help but visualize winter and the older adults who come to serve during this season.

He shared that most of the fruit comes into Gleanings from the packinghouses, not directly from the fields. The fruit is bruised, scarred, blemished, hail damaged, in odd shapes and sizes, overly ripe, or with split pits — but is not spoiled.

People outside the farming community frequently use the word seconds to describe this fruit, but farmers refer to them as culls.

Something culled is picked out and set aside. Culls are not inherently inferior or less nutritious on the inside. But packinghouses are not able to send them to market because of their size, blemishes, or stage of ripeness, and because people shop with their eyes.

Gordon explained our eyes often fool us. The best-looking, marketable fruit may or may not be the best tasting or the most nutritious.

Gleanings is all about giving fruit a second chance, and summer volunteers can tell you there is quite a process redeeming the peaches, eventually sent out as dried fruit.

Because of what happens to the fruit at Gleanings, it lasts longer, travels much farther, and helps meet deeper needs than the shelf-ready fruit both physically and spiritually (the exported food is always tied to proclamation of the gospel). In the end, food from Gleanings is consumed by hungry people who appreciate it more than we can imagine.

When a shipment of very mature, overripe peaches arrives, Gleanings makes sure the volunteers and conveyor belts shift into high gear. If this fruit sits idle, it will quickly become mushy and unusable.

What wonderful parallels to our YES! team and other “overly ripe” individuals serving with us. Our colorful crate of culls — up to 86 years ripe, some with canes, limited sight, special needs, physical challenges, and even split in the pit relationships — prepared 2 million servings of soup for shipment and made 30 quilts in the 41/2 days we served!

For a moment I am tempted to mutter, “Those stupid consumers who shop with their eyes!” But then I catch myself, knowing I’m often in that swarm of shallow shoppers.

In these later years of life, we do at times get set apart because we’re not shelf-ready in the eyes of consumers.

I’m convinced we’re often too quick to slap on the “ageism” label. Could it just be a reality of the aging process, a season when God is eager to redirect our path? Does He want to open our eyes to value not immediately recognized by American consumers? Value we ourselves might have skipped over in earlier years?

The labels “old,” “senior,” and “elderly” do not in themselves constitute ageism — in fact, many cultures apply to them special seals of honor, lush with value and respect. The trouble comes when we make the wrong assumptions about these “Son-kissed” brands. We can waste energy meticulously trying to peel labels off the skin of these succulent peaches — or we can embrace what’s inside for all they’re worth!

Our challenge is helping seasoned adults and leaders understand we’ve been set aside for greater purpose. We must be willing to subject ourselves to the sometimes-painful process of pruning — renewing our minds so our full potential for spiritual fruitfulness can be gleaned. As this city kid learned from the farmer and Gleanings, there is a world of difference between “CULL” and “NULL”!

Our scrappy YES! Young Enough to Serve team from a dozen different churches returned to our dozen different packinghouses with a renewed sense of our current value in God’s economy and of our continuing far-reaching potential — in spite of the hail damage we’ve experienced along the way. We pray this renewed spiritual vision multiplies as we probe beneath the surface and recognize both deeper and broader potential in others.

None of us is a “second.” We are culls. Culled by God for a greater purpose.

Jesus knows rejection. He knows overlooked value. And He knows how to inject culls with renewed value and purpose.

WES WICK and Judy Wick are the founders/executive directors of YES! Young Enough to Serve and live in Scotts Valley, Calif.


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