Stewards of the earth … and one another

In Proverbs 27:18 we read that, “whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honored.” Why do I share this with you, this piece on stewardship, this passage that relays what it is to manage and care for something? The surface answer is that with the changing season comes an acute attention to the beauty that we are blessed to participate in. 

As the leaves change around us, as they fall to the ground, and the air takes on a crisp and sometimes brisk note, I personally cannot help but feel a renewed sense of awe and responsibility for the earth around me. But in a deeper context, I share this because the concept of being stewards of the earth and caring for what we’ve physically been provided, is so closely tied to our relationships with one another and the care we show for those we are in relationship with. 

This past weekend I experienced firsthand the pure joy it was to be on the receiving end of stewardship. I’ve been taken care of my whole life, that’s in no way in question. I’ve been loved, cherished, treasured, and valued by family and friends whom I love, cherish, treasure, and value in return. In coming down to Virginia I met Mary, who I worked with last year in my assistantship office. 

A Christian through and through, I firmly believe Mary was placed in my life last year to get me through the tough times and to celebrate my good. Since then, I’ve met her husband and children, she visited me over the summer while I was at Brown University, and I’ve gone to church with her family. We’ve broken bread, shared laughs, cried together, and her home has become a home away from my Massachusetts home. Just this past weekend I spent my Saturday morning at her house. 

Over dinner a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about the weather getting colder and how we were fixing to stay warm as the temperatures dropped and talk of our wood stoves came up. We had just run out of wood at our house, and Mary’s family, set back on a beautiful country plot, had a woodpile to be envied and more where that came from. The deal was made — if I wanted to come help chop wood next weekend, I could keep what I hauled. And so, haul I did. As I worked alongside Mary’s husband, sweat forming as I carried chopped firewood to and from the woodpiles, I couldn’t help but smile. Not only was this something I loved to do — being active, seeing progress made, completing a practical task — but I was able to truly appreciate being outside, caring for a creation not my own, and seeing out a crucial step in allowing it to serve a greater purpose.

Seems a little intense to speak of firewood this way, but I felt connected to my actions in a way that rooted me to the earth around me. But what’s greater is the sense of care I felt as I watched Mary’s husband split wood and separate it into two piles. For each log he split he’d toss a couple of pieces aside, creating a pile just for me. He’d look at the wood in his hands, see that it would burn well, and pass it along for us to burn in our house. 

It was an amazing feeling to feel a beautifully entwined sense of stewardship to the earth, an abundant creation of goodness and beauty, but also to fellow man. As we worked in tandem, I helped to diminish the pile of wood yet to be stacked to help prepare them for their next haul, and I was helped to warm my “family” back at my house. I worked with a smile on my face; I’d just cared for the maintenance and renewal of the earth and this relationship I’ve come to value so greatly. 

I ask that you share in this with me. Be stewards to one another. Take care of those in your life — care for them and do right by them. We’re told this in so many ways, and this account is merely one example, however it rings very true for me. 

We’ve been given a marvelous gift in our earth and what it provides us with. We’ve been given marvelous gifts in the people who come in and out of our lives. Just as we would do with our woodpiles, with our gardens, with tending our homes, we must too, cultivate the relationships we have and never forget their value. 

Happy fall everyone, and happy stewardship!

Anchor columnist Renee Bernier graduated from Stonehill College and is a graduate student in the College Student Personnel Program at James Madison University in Harrison, Va.

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