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Second Pick

by Marcia McGreevy Lewis

Black and white photo of a group of people seemingly sorting through fruit. The photo looks like it was taken in the pre second world war.
Image credit: Chris Curry on Unsplash

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present,” said Abraham Lincoln. Our times may or may not be equally as stormy as the Civil War era, but we would be well advised to re-examine our dogmas. A big issue that itches for scratching in our stormy present is our intolerance of persons from differing cultures.

We, in the United States, have dumped busloads of unsuspecting immigrants into unprepared cities. At the same time, people in Poland are welcoming Ukrainians into their homes. Lined up at the train station in Poland are rows of baby strollers that the Polish leave to help the Ukrainians to transport their families. Recently there was a couple from Denmark on the news with a sign that said, “We will take eight people.” When the interviewer asked them how they could do that, they said, “We brought two cars so we could drive them.”

We may not be able to leave our strollers or drive refugees home, but what are we doing about accepting persons different from ourselves? Where do we start? At the most basic level, we need to examine our prejudices. Are you and I embracing persons from all walks of life? Do Black lives matter to us? Really? Where are we in transitioning our priorities to be inclusive?

Realizing that I needed to shake up my own thinking around acceptance of different cultures, I underwent a self-examination. A perfect way for me to ponder was to perform a mindless task like picking blackberries. Blackberries are abundant in the Northwest, and I can’t resist picking them, so I happily set about my pondering. Foraging among the prickly thorns, though, isn’t for the faint of heart. Here’s my process:

The blackberry-picking warrior makes her equipment check:

  • One 2-quart plastic container, tied with a long string looped around my neck.

I wear the container to keep my hands free.

  • One 2-gallon bucket

I dump my berries in the bucket when the container around my neck is full.

  • One barbeque fork

Sumptuous berries sometimes grow beyond my reach, so I use the fork to bring them close.

  • Gloves

Plastic gloves work well to protect my hands from the inevitable prickles.

  • Black, cotton, long-sleeved shirt and pants, hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.

I wear black clothing because berries stain.

The clothes are cotton. I may find myself impaled on blackberry thorns if I wear synthetic material. I stick to long sleeves and pants for protection when reaching for those juicy, out-of-reach berries.

Image of blackberries that are both ripe and dark in colour as well as unripe red blackberries.
Image credit: Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

First step:

I pick each fat, shiny, blackberry, using my fork to probe for hidden ones. I leave not one for the next guy.

Second step:

Once I have finished, I pick the same area from the opposite direction. I’m amazed in this second pick at how many more berries I find—about 1/3 as many as the first pick, and I was sure I’d picked each one. Why didn’t I see them the first time? How could my perspective have been so off?

When I clean my berries, I soak them in a tub of water. There is always flotsam and jetsam--stems, leaves, spiders and worms float to the surface. I pick out the detritus, swish the berries clean and drain them. Now the young, under-ripe berries and those a little withered are in the same pot.

When they cook, imperfect berries join together--young and old, solid and squished, from both the first and second pick. The whole is now greater than its questionable parts. This mix of differences is what makes mouthwatering jams, jellies, sauces, pies and cobblers. The mix is the message I’m starting to get.

I’m also starting to get that I had overlooked many ripe fruits. What else have I overlooked in my life? I had prejudices. I realize that I have often judged. I was intolerant of the elderly. I used to look askance at feebleness and became irritated when an older person asked me to repeat myself.

I never reached out to other ethnicities because it didn’t occur to me to do that. I pitied, at a distance, those with disabilities. I need to take a second look at a potential good friend who may lurk behind thick glasses or yesterday’s style of jeans. I need to offer to help someone who is physically challenged or who can’t verbalize what his or her mind is dying to express. I need to invite into my home people of all racial groups and sexual identities.

“It is never too late to give up your prejudices,” said Henry David Thoreau, another sage from a bygone era. A poke in the rear with my berry-picking barbeque fork might help me forge through the thorns in my thinking, but whatever it takes to learn, it needs to start with me. What stroller do I have to offer? How?

Changing my perspective to make positive changes is imperative. I need to consider through a new lens that bodies in a variety of colors, older bodies, maimed bodies and bodies that simply go their own way, encase unique individuals worthy of praise and love. I need to look honestly at myself before I ask the world to do the same. I am beginning to invite people into my life whom I previously wouldn’t have considered potential friends. My heart dances after I’ve had an intimate conversation with someone I might have considered incapable of such depth. The gift I can give myself is to give warmth to every person I meet.

We don’t know how the Ukrainian situation will end. The chance is that many Ukrainians will land on our soil, and I am looking for ways to accommodate that. These are the moments that embody change. I will try to respond adequately and to urge others to get out their barbeque forks to probe around in their thorny value systems. If I can influence transitions in my small world, who knows how that small world might magnify?

It is imperative that we think anew and act anew, and our efforts must reflect positive thinking that emanates from our very beings. If it takes re-orienting our priorities, that’s what we must do to find our power. Thoreau asks it of you, and Lincoln proclaims it essential.


Black and white photo of the author, Marcia McGreevy Lewis.
Marcia McGreevy Lewis

Marcia McGreevy Lewis (she/her) lives in Seattle and is a retired feature writer for a Washington newspaper and past Director of Communications at an independent Seattle School. Recently printed in national publications--Literary Journals: F3LL Magazine, Life in Lit, Freshwater/ Magazines: Focus on the Family, Idaho Magazine, Today’s Christian Living, Third Act/ Travel Magazines: GO World (3 articles), ROVA/Books: Chicken Soup for the Soul. Reach her on Facebook and Instagram: marcialewis25, Twitter: @McGreevyLewis and Linkedin: marcia-lewis

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