Weeks of Lenten pondering has led to an Easter-tide realization…that nothing I can do will ever rise to the lofty standard of being good. Certainly, my thinking roots back to that biblical text of God calling His creation good… against those pointed words memorialized in Luke, where Jesus disassociates himself from goodness with a theoretical ten-foot
pole cross, by saying
“Why do you call me good. Nobody is good except for God.”
I once confused the standard of ‘good” with being ‘good enough.” Where now I know that good is better than I know. Better than I am. And that only on my better days, can I offer up ‘good enough.’
Upon that landscape, I’ll still confess that if someone (or something) calls out for assistance, I do what I can to help — even when I know I’ll fall short of doing the good others deserve. Some weeks I pour time out and spread myself thin, while others, like the last two, not so much. I’ve no need to recount details, but my “good enough” deeds usually connect me to one of my four children. Sometimes to Sis or Aunt Jane. But rarely beyond these. Which may be why I wish to record this one that took place during the dark days of Lent, that had me fulfilling a strange promise to a stranger living out west that I’d earlier tracked down via Facebook’s email system.
Yes, I’m back on Facebook — for the moment, anyway — because of some good-deeding committed to last autumn. A pastor friend of mine is writing a book and he wished to more easily facilitate comments within a digital writing support group on Facebook… and since I was the only holdout, and wished to help…
Facebook has its place and its uses. One, I’ve learned, is this: For the bargain price of one dollar, I can contact anyone in Facebook’s planetary system, including a lady whose one-of-a-kind name appeared at the top of an ultrasound photo taken of her unborn child….hmm.. seven years ago, I think. Or was it eleven? Funny how I can no longer recall and that the number of years no longer matters.
The image had fallen out of a used paperback I was reading, Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, which I had purchased online from a vendor near Seattle. It’s a fine tale, one that weaves together three stories of three women living in separate times and states, more or less connected together by another novel…. this one, Virginia Woolf’s, Mrs. Dalloway. I read The Hours during Advent….and I suppose the stranger who first owned it read the book during her pregnancy. Perhaps she marked her progress in the paperback with an ultrasound photo, before losing track of both.
Rather than tossing the picture out, I set it aside, only to let it gather dust till I ran across it again a few days after Ash Wednesday, buried in my unread stacks of books. I decided to spare a few minutes to the internet, which led me to Facebook and its lost mother… which led me to draft a strange email that began…. “I hope you’ll not find this too weird, but….”
Now sitting more than two months removed from this event, I wish to say that if that Lenten good-enough deed of mine was weird, how I wish to see more like it in the world, and more of it from me. So much so, that it would not seem weird at all. Because… who am I kidding? Isn’t life, at its best, wonderfully weird? And isn’t it when we try to keep life in the bounds of the middle of the bell curve, so that we don’t stand out, that life falls strangely flat? You’ll not be surprised, I imagine, to hear that the mother, still unknown to me, still a stranger to me on Facebook (since we are not friends), was overjoyed at my boldness in my reaching out to her past from my present.
Perhaps the weirdest part of all these lines… is that I had not intended to share this strange story between strangers when I began this post. Instead, I’d planned to share a different one about a landscape design for a prayer garden I’d created for another pastor friend of mine who serves an inner-city Methodist church. But here we are, with a header photo strangely out of place with the print surrounding it.
That the execution of that landscape design calls for many “good” deeds and ornamental plant material — but no green beans or other edibles — leads me the other original goal of the post: To share a trio of recipes involving green beans that connect me back to three women I love who live or lived in different times and places. It seems right to at least make good on this one. Because in one way or another, as noted within the recipes below, these green beans have each been synonymous with good deeds. And there is nothing flat tasting about these.
#1 ~~ Greek Green Beans
Thanks to Aunt Jane, who first preserved my grandfather’s recipe in word…
2 15 oz cans of green beans, drained 1/2 cup chopped onion 2 minced garlic cloves 2 Tbsp olive oil 2 tsp dried oregano 1/2 tsp salt (more or less) 1/4 tsp pepper 1/4 tsp allspice 1 8oz can tomato sauce 1 15 oz can petite tomatoes 1 cup of water In a large sauce pan over medium to medium-low heat, saute onion in olive oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and spices and stir for a minute, before adding tomato sauce, tomatoes and water. Simmer uncovered over low heat for 30 minutes. Add drained green beans and simmer another 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with slices of crusty bread, as a meal in itself or as a side, with my grandfather’s roasted chicken or fried pork chops.