“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we …”
are the famous words introducing Tale of Two Cities. Classic. Many of us had to read the book as youth. These words seem to describe so many situations and the plight of our hero Ruth in the book of Ruth. A foreigner, reduced by hunger to gleaning in a stranger’s field, she is working hard to just stay alive and keep her mother-in-law fed too. It was the worst of times for Ruth and Naomi. But… It was the best of times because “as it turned out she found herself” in the field of Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s husband. “Just then” Boaz visits his field and the plot thickens. Introductions are so important. How do I present myself and how do others present me?
I note that Boaz first talks to his foreman to check out what’s happening. Reliable care-giving requires reliable research. Aid work drilled water holes in the desert in northern Kenya because people were hungry. Communities formed around the water, schools were started, families were divided as some followed the herds and some stayed with civilization, and one result was broken families and desertification. To go to school children needed clothes so lines formed at my door asking me to makes shorts. Then the lines for soap to wash the shorts. Then lines to mend the shorts that fell in the fire! There is a ripple effect to care-giving. Boaz checks with his foreman. The foreman affirms Ruth’s character as a hard worker.
Boaz then approaches Ruth, “My daughter, listen…” What an interesting opener. How do we see those we help? “My client,” “my patient,” “my husband,” or perhaps our heart sees them as “my burden, my responsibility, or my good deed.” Boaz calls Ruth “daughter.” He establishes his authority and seniority in an inclusive, gentle title, “daughter.” He then goes on to put boundaries, clearly explaining how she can safely glean. Care-giving relationships can easily get murky if expectations and boundaries are not clear. Motives can come into question or even abuse result.
Interestingly Ruth humbly accepts his offering agreeing that she is “a foreigner.” There are many applications possible from this text as we too live our lives in the midst of “good times” and “bad times.” I ponder the titles we use to greet others or to describe ourselves. Titles so easily divide, establish hierarchy and authority. Perhaps a spiritual exercise today is to list the titles you call yourself that establish relationship with others and to list the parameters you place around a couple of those care-giving situations. God calls me “beloved,” We can sing today that chorus, “I’m my beloveds and he is mine, his banner over me is love.”