“And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.” (Rth 2:7 NAS77)
Ruth was a “stranger” in the community, but God had provided for her. In the Mosaic law, poverty was addressed and provision made for the widow, orphan and stranger. The law spoke about not gleaning the fields or orchards, not harvesting to the edges, allowing fields to lay “fallow” (preparing the field, but not planting to allow it a “rest” – during this time, there was always wild production from seeds that had fallen and sprouted naturally) as provision for this need within the community.
Unfortunately, greed often led to ignoring these principles. That was apparent in the admonition from both Boaz and Naomi to stay in his fields where she would be protected. Not everyone felt this way. Many land owners were not so observant.
But, even in that provisions, Ruth had responsibility. She went, she asked, she gleaned. The context seems to imply that she was somehow remarkable in her efforts. She started early. She worked hard. She acted with respect. She didn’t take a lot of breaks or complain. The foreman noticed. Boaz noticed. There was something different in Ruth.
I spend a lot of time with addicts and homeless folk – usually at the jail. They all talk about living a different life, but few of them actually do anything to change. I could probably write a dozen posts on the many reasons why they are “trapped”. They are victims of abuse, their past, addictions, oppression, discrimination, societal indifference, lack of resources, lack of education, low self-worth, mental disorder, family dysfunction, etc.
But, every now and then, maybe once or twice a year, I run into someone who is really trying. They walk miles and miles to go to AA/NA meetings or school or both. They get to their job by bicycle, bus or foot no matter what the weather. They do without things others view as necessities simply because they can’t afford it. They learn. They serve. They put their feet on the ground every morning and do something no matter how they feel. They practice integrity even when it costs them. Even in jail, they work to change who they are and how they see things.
These are the folks worth fighting for and investing in. They are rare and special. Not because they are gifted, blessed, fated, genetically superior or just plain lucky, but because they believe. They believe that there is something different out there than what they have experienced in the past. They believe that they have value to contribute to this world. They believe that they have power to change their circumstances. They believe that there is a power greater than themselves that believes in them. And they try.
Ruth was rare and special.
Just like us.