The first school I attended was a very small village school which was based in the home of the headteacher. I arrived there aged three (coincidentally on the same day that my brother was born) and left at 12. As schools go, it was quite unusual, but some of its traditions have stayed with me ever since.
One of these was saying grace before and after a meal. We had a selection of different prayers to give some variety. Some of them were in Latin – although I understand now what they were saying, I’m not sure I quite grasped their meaning when I was only three or four!
One of the English-language graces we used went like this: “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly grateful. Amen.” It’s short and simple but with an important plea – for God to help us recognise what we have and be thankful for it.
And that is, of course, what Harvest Festival is all about. Each year we celebrate the bounty of the land and seas, the hard work of those who produce our food, the sunshine and rain that enable the crops to grow and remember God, the source of all our blessings.
It is sadly noticeable that as people and nations grow richer, their sense of gratitude diminishes. We take so much for granted: food on our plates, water in our taps, rubbish collection, electricity, gas, solar power, good sanitation, health and education. The minute something goes wrong we move into complaint-mode, rather than being able to focus on how 99% of the time our services work well.
For those who are less fortunate, the things we take for granted are still a source of thanksgiving. To see the look on a child’s face when their community first gets a tap with clean water is amazing. To read the stories of girls who can now continue to go to school during certain times of the month rather than having to stay at home because a school now has toilet facilities can be moving. To listen to the words of people who can now feed themselves because others have helped them to find a sustainable existence is inspiring.
Harvest Festival can remind us that we have much to be grateful for, and perhaps it can become a time not only of gratitude but also of generosity. We have so much; some have so little. There is enough in the world for everyone’s needs, but if the dream of full plates and clean water is to become a reality for all the world’s people, those of us with resources must be willing to share them with others. We may not feel rich but compared with many we have so much.
Thanks be to God!
With best wishes