Standing at the kitchen sink, I held the orange under the water and gently rubbed a little dish soap over the outside surface of the orange. “You can’t be too careful,” I thought. “You never know whose dirty hands have touched this orange.” Remembering outbreaks of illness due to contaminated produce, I try to remember to wash the outside of fruits and vegetables, even if I am going to peel them.
Although much of our agricultural production is automated these days, quite a wide variety of fruit and vegetables are still harvested by hand. You can mechanically harvest some crops but not the strawberries you cut up on your cereal and definitely not the fresh peaches you will enjoy this summer. Farm workers toil in the hot sun, picking by hand the fruit and vegetables we purchase in the grocery store or at the local farm stand.
“Bless the hands that prepared it…” This familiar phrase we use when blessing our food popped into my mind, seemingly out of nowhere, and took me off guard.
My conscience was pricked as I envisioned farm workers laboring in orchards and fields under the hot sun, and my heart grew tender. “Bless the hands…” The orange, now a sweet memory to my taste buds, was plucked from a tree in California by hardworking hands. Other pairs of hands loaded those oranges into bags and boxes to be put on trucks and hauled across the country.
“Bless the hands…” The boxes of oranges were driven to my region of the country by hands that carefully steered the 18-wheeler right up to the loading dock of my local grocery store, where more hands unloaded the produce, then carefully arranged it in the grocery store where I shop. “Bless the hands…” Instead of blessing those who work hard to produce my food, I arrogantly worried about the dirt and germs on their hands as they handled my piece of fruit. Instead of being grateful, I was judgmental. God, forgive me!
We pray, asking God to “bless the hands that prepared it” but maybe He is calling us to “bless the hands” that serve us. When we bless the hands that prepare our food, clean our hotel rooms, provide lawn services, dry clean our clothes and anything else within the service sector, it will mean being grateful and saying, “thank you.” Blessing those hands means paying them what they deserve and being generous with gratuities. Blessing the hands means praying for their well being and then allowing God to use us to answer that prayer. Blessing the hands means viewing these people through God’s eyes and relating to them in a spirit of generosity.
God calls us to a life of generosity, both in word and deed, and a blessing is promised. “A generous man will himself be blessed…” (Proverbs 22:9). God grant us the largeness of heart to be givers and not takers, to be merciful rather than judgmental!