Our family had the opportunity to watch the tree tapping and maple syrup making process at a local farm a couple of weekends ago. My husband and I didn’t have this experience in childhood, so it was a great learning opportunity for our entire family. One of the participants asked about how much sap could be extracted from the tree without harming it. It was a thoughtful question, and the response was that the hope is to take as much as they needed for the year. Reading between the lines, it was evident that for these individuals, the philosophy of extracting sap is to take enough to make the right amount of syrup to last the year. Not too little. Not too much.
A few days later, I was reading the Exodus story to better understand the parallels of Jesus’ teachings that correspond to this season of Lent. I was struck by these ancient instructions given to Moses and Aaron from the Lord in Exodus 12:4: “If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.” This scripture made me think back to our neighbor’s philosophy of taking sap, it reminded me of manna in the wilderness, and this morning it reminds me of the frost-bitten strawberries we pulled out of the back of our freezer for breakfast. A simple thing, but a real moment of, “Maybe we didn’t need quite so many strawberries.” In all of this, and in particular in the Exodus passage, I’m struck by the important reminder to take what is needed—no more, no less—and in the process of figuring out how much this might be, to consider our neighbor. When we consider our neighbor and take what we deem to be the appropriate amount, we live generously and allow God the opportunity to grow our capacity to trust him, and live into “give us this day, our daily bread”. The name Neighbor by Neighbor, in part, was chosen because it was an observation that many people in the community who come to receive food at our Mobile Food Pantries were doing what these words commanded: considering what might be enough, and sharing with their neighbors. Perhaps this spring I will pick fewer strawberries, or share a few more, or better yet, make some strawberry shortcake and invite my neighbors over to enjoy it with us.