by Pam Risser
Forty-two jars of applesauce line my kitchen counter tops. I spent the day with my oldest daughter and her children, cutting, simmering and pressing apples into applesauce for the winter. Last week I worked alongside another daughter canning apple pie filling. The week before that, all my daughters came together for us to can quart after quart of peach halves, slices and pie filling. Eager granddaughters jostled one another to have a place at filling jars with peach halves or turning the crank on the applesauce strainer.
I have my own memories of working alongside my own mother in the garden, canning and freezing produce, baking cookies, frying donuts, kneading bread, and learning to sew and quilt. I spent years passing many of those skills onto my own children. Now, the next generation is eager to crawl onto a kitchen chair by my side to help make cookies and bread, pull grapes off the stem or snap green beans. Little hands are learning to handle a small knife to chop peppers and tomatoes and peel peaches.
Several years ago, the wife of one of our farm employees took note of how I preserved food for the winter. Being from Mexico, she had previously no need to learn these skills. Now she asked if I would teach her. Working side by side in the large farmhouse kitchen, talking in her broken English and my broken Spanish, she learned how to can peaches, turn apples into applesauce and cook up a large pot of salsa.
Throughout the fall and spring our church has Wednesday Family Activity Nights. We meet together for a shared meal, followed by activities planned for the children, youth and adults. It is not uncommon for at least one children’s activity to include learning a skill together, such as baking apple pies or creating resurrection gardens. Women of varying ages sit together around a quilting frame or a table to knit, crochet or craft, learning new skills from one another. Others gather around a game or a book or Bible study, to share laughter, knowledge and insight with one another.
So much life experience, so much wisdom and knowledge to share as we work side by side. Often, some of the best conversations happen in the midst of working (or playing) together. Some of the most profound spiritual lessons can come in the midst of teaching and learning together. The older can teach the younger, and the younger have many fresh insights to broaden the scope.
As I see the school buses back on the roads, I am reminded that learning does not just happen in formal settings such as school. It does not end when formal education ends. All of life is a school. It is the school of opportunity. May we take the time to sit across a quilting frame, a dishpan of peaches or a dinner table from one another and learn of God, life and community together.
Used by permission from The Burning Bush, Franklin Conference newsletter.