Laura Chouette, Unsplash

Gleaning & Giving Thanks Despite COVID-19

12:00 April 26, 2021
By: Keith John Paul Horcasitas

As we are all still coping with COVID-19 in one way or another and struggling to find hope, I have my own The Mamas and The Papas' "California Dreamin'" memory that may help others glean some hope and thanksgiving-despite all the heartaches and setbacks that many of us have had to deal with.

The San Joaquin Valley in California is known for its abundance as a provider of many great agricultural products—especially fruits—for this country and beyond! I had the blessing and thanksgiving of working right smack in the middle of it back in the fall of 1981 in a little town called Porterville.

In between college and graduate school, I really didn't know what I wanted to do for a living, so I took a year off doing low paid volunteer work through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps—similar to the Peace Corps and VISTA.

How special it was to drive 30 miles every day to Porterville with Robbie, another volunteer, from Tulare, California—where we and six other volunteers resided, doing all kinds of human services outreach.
The great aroma of orange blossoms permeating the air during our travels was a real treat; thankfully, we didn't have allergies that can cause havoc for some folks.

While we have some bad fog at times during the year in Louisiana, especially around Baton Rouge and over the Bonnet Carré Spillway, I experienced the super thick "tule fog" a few times, where at times you literally could not see more than a few feet in front of you, if at all!

My work was involved with a mental health agency and was focused on outreach to homebound elderly, as well as ones in nursing homes, in need of counseling and contact. Roger, my supervisor, let me use his Vespa Scooter every day for my travels since "It Never Rains In California," as noted by that song! So I had real fun making visits to seniors.

It happened that the Porterville Senior Center that I would visit weekly had a presentation on "gleaning," a biblical term that I'd heard of but didn't know much about being a city slicker from N'awlins.

Who can forget the beautiful biblical love story of Ruth and Naomi, wherein gleaning led to the wonderful outcome for the families involved and for all of us followers in the lineage of the Son of David?

Besides doing some cool crop gleaning to share food with the disadvantaged, it was also a treat to glean some overstocked products like Chanel No. 5 perfume that the Senior Center had access to.

I was able to surprise my then finance, Maria, with a bottle or two, as well as make many brownie points with all the other women in my life—my late mom, my late mother-in-law, sisters, friends, etc.

Thanksgiving to God, even with COVID-19, for all gleaned blessings—especially bountiful, aromatic love shared with one another!

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