By Bren Dubay
Koinonia is full of stories. There is nothing quite like one of our gifted story tellers delivering a Koinonia tale, holding us in the palm of her hand as she delivers the details, causing us to laugh so hard that none of us can speak. Many of the stories are funny; some are not. Some bring us to a quiet place. The room can be silent for a very long time. There is something deeply healthy about how we can sit in the quiet together and not be uncomfortable.
I’ve been thinking about one of my favorite stories a lot lately. My guess is that others here have been, too —
One rainy Christmas Day, Clarence was found out in the orchard planting pecan trees.
“What in the world are you doing out here, Clarence?” someone asked. “It’s Christmas Day! It’s raining, and you’ll never benefit from those trees. It takes 25 years for them to produce anything.”
Clarence replied, “I’m planting them for the people that are coming after me.”
A crew dug 500 holes this month and, at this writing, they have planted 250 new pecan trees. The other 250 will be planted long before I write Brief Thoughts for February.
In my imagination I see Clarence and Alma Jackson and Lenny Jordan and the Wittkamper boys (as the story has been passed down we’ve lost exactly which of the Wittkamper boys) and many others whose names I do not know planting those trees so long, long ago. The red clay of Georgia is hard. They didn’t have the benefit of the fancy modern machine we had to dig the holes. The story goes that the machine they did have broke Lenny’s arm. No matter the machine, it is back breaking work. How their bodies must have ached. I am grateful that they planted those trees for us.
Likely, I will benefit from these new trees. It takes five to seven years now for a pecan tree to bear fruit rather than the twenty-five back it took when Clarence was planting on Christmas Day. Yes, most of us who are here now will benefit from the new orchard, but that makes it no less true that we are planting these trees for the people that are coming after us. I think about those people, too. I imagine them. Can one be grateful in advance? I feel that I am.
Stories do abound at Koinonia, but as happy as that makes me, it also makes me sad. For each story we share, there are thousands, likely way more than hundreds of thousands, that we don’t even know. Sometimes I fantasize that one-day we’ll have so many members that we can give one of them the work assignment — a full time work assignment — to gather all the stories and write them down … or record them … for the people coming after us.
I reflect about the ways Koinonia has changed in its first 78 years and wonder about how it will change in its next 78. I’m comforted by the thought that some things will remain the same. We’ll still be telling stories and I’d be surprised if we aren’t still offering welcome to all — hospitality has been central from the beginning. Will our friends donate to help plant the next orchard or the other ways we work to serve others? I suspect they will.
That gives me another thought. If you are reading this and you have a Koinonia story, would you send it to us? Do you have more than one story? Send them all. “Lenny, is it true that the machine broke your arm?”