EDITOR’s NOTE: Shauna Weil is a musician, writer and partner in one of Michigan’s historic family-owned dairy farms. Late each summer, Weil Farm becomes a destination for hundreds of hungry Michiganders, when the Weil family opens its super-sweetcorn stand. Shauna also writes occasional spiritual reflections for friends in her congregation. This column touched many readers and was widely shared, including via ReadTheSpirit this week.
“Words heard by chance have been known to change lives.”
Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
If this is the greatest commandment Jesus taught us—why can’t we do it?
I tell you a tale of the corn stand and a day my heart broke. It is not only children who learn lessons under the big tent we set up for corn sales each year. Adults do as well. I had this lesson seared into me one hot day in a way I will not forget—and taught to me by a child.
We welcome all travelers of the road to our corn tent, where we sell our farm’s sweetcorn each summer. I was working and happened to overhear two of our helpers, both of whom are middle-school age. The older boy told the younger boy that he would not go out to serve a particular car.
The younger one asked, “Why?”
“Because of that confederate license plate on the front of the car.”
Again, the younger one asked, “Why?”
The older boy explained that the confederate flag symbolized support for the ugly era of slavery in our country. Then, he went on to explain how he could not stand to be associated with the hatred that continues toward people of color to this day.
The younger boy looked at his friend through new eyes. A lesson was passing from older to younger, and I was overhearing it in real time. The younger freckled face was beginning to grasp an ugly truth in our world from this older boy, who still is very young himself and proudly identifies himself as a person of color. Despite his age, he already understood this pattern of hatred that runs so deep and wide in our nation.
My heart broke right there with corn in my hand as I overheard a child standing next to me explain this much better than I could have to another child. I didn’t want this hatred to exist in our world—in the worst way, I wanted to erase all traces of it—but it does.
We talked and I told him I supported his position entirely.
“Thank you, Shauna,” was the response to me from this child. I did not deserve his thanks. Of course, with the whitest of skin, I am a part of that centuries-old pattern of privilege. He was the wise one in this situation. He was teaching me. I should have thanked him. I cried that day and I cry now as I write these words.
I was humbled by my inadequacy. May we all be so humbled as we walk forward in faith truly loving our neighbor as ourselves. My heart broke that day, but God will mend it and make it bigger to spread more love and acceptance in this world where something ugly reared it’s head on a hot day under a corn tent on a small farm in Goodrich, Michigan, in the United States of America in North America on the planet Earth.
Reread Jesus’ commandment, please.
How big is your heart?
How big is your tent?