It is Saturday and plans were to march in the Pride Parade. However, a level of discomfort is in the air and besides, as it turned out, the skies opened up and such rain never experienced in San Diego came down upon us. It was a hurricane-like tropical storm carrying with it the warmth of a comforting fleece blanket and the force of raining cats and dogs. Or was it Job’s God, “scattering his lightning about him, bathing the depths of his sea (Job 36:30)?” God’s creation was in high gear, making a statement with an arid earth welcoming each drop, each torrent to soak each grain of dirt, each cactus or thirsty tree, or blade of “approved” grass.
Time for Plan B. While not exactly apple season, the uneaten apples were wilting in the dining area…what to do with all this unused and very ripe expression of God’s abundance in our midst. Hurry, or the opportunity will be lost and big time waste will occur. I am still seeking ways to engage people, get to know them, learning what they think, feel or believe. Needy apples, rain, getting to know YOU….
A prop, yes sometimes props help. In this case, it is God’s creation, the ubiquitous apple. How could anything but good come from the presence of apples? Last week I brought in the apple all-in-one “corer/peeler/slicer” anticipating a rendezvous with the very ripe apples. The time is ripe.
One by one, all forty of them, I core, spiral peel and slice the apples, the way the meat grinder works, manually, by turning the crank. Being present in the kitchen as residents come into get a cup of coffee, practice social skills, peering at all the apples and wondering what ultimately is going to happen to them, as was I for at that point, I had no idea. I simply know they need to be prepared somehow and hopefully enjoyed in their various fashions. As I peel, core and slice, I also began to explore in my own mind how the apple fared in biblical times. Was the reference profound, positive or peculiar? At that point, clearly the apple preparation was a gathering place where people came into community around warm, sweet smells and hospitality.
Remember the social skills that were being practiced? One resident’s awkward approach was met by another’s kind and honest, “no thank you.” Both residents walked away feeling good about themselves. Yes, indeed, “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (Proverbs 25:11).” It was an amazing place to be grinding apples into oblivion and all this community unwittingly coming together in new and unusual ways around the apple. Throughout the four-hour period of prepping and cooking, residents pass through, check on the progress, stay and talk for a while and gather, as if that small kitchen area was grandma’s large kitchen of old.
The cooking…there were fried apples with onions on the side. I am not sure how many sweet/savory devotees we had. The consensus? The combined flavor of apples and onions …delicious. Plus, homemade applesauce is ready for dinner and an apple spice cake available as a sweet treat to end the meal. All of the apples in all sorts of conditions were consumed. They did not suffer a prolonged or uncomfortable demise. Instead, they were happily enjoyed and even become part of the conversation as signs of community were observed, the loving of the brother or sister and each other without recognizing those expressions of conversation, smiles and pats on the back as community. As Bonhoeffer reminds me, “He who loves community destroys community; he who loves the brethren builds community (Vanier 1992, p. 35).” Trust building begins in the presence of the apple. God’s creation, the apple, its skin, seed and flesh at the end of the day living in each resident, like the Trinity lives in us and binds us as community, in oneness with God.
Vanier, Jean. From Brokenness to Community. Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1992.