I arrived at the shelter behind Providence UM Church Saturday morning to help prepare brunswick stew for an annual fall event. I found three pots going and a bunch of very organized folks actively engaged in a variety of tasks. I pitched in taking turns stirring and scraping, just as we were beginning to cook potatoes and onions. Cans of additional ingredients were standing by on nearby tables, waiting to be added at the appropriate time. It was a long day of work for a lot of people that was worth every moment they spent doing it.
As I worked, a number of “stew” sayings drifted through my mind. Things like “being in a stew”–getting into a state of worry or concern about someone or something. How easy it is to do that when we let anxiety overwhelm us.
I thought of “stewing in one’s own juices”–being left alone to suffer the consequences of something, or to “stew” in anger or disappointment. If you’re like me, that happens to you from time to time. Sometimes we make unwise choices, or intentionally ignore what we know to be right or proper in some situation–and we pay the price.
Another saying jumped into mind, “too many cooks spoil the stew.” Well, not this stew! That saying refers to times when a common effort gets spoiled because too many people try to manage things. Guess I’ve contributed to stuff like that sometimes, too. Haven’t you?
None of those ideas fit what we were about Saturday morning. It was an occasion of joyful fellowship, shared tasks, and excitement. No worries, anger or disappointments apparent in this group. No spoilage due to too many “managers.”
Work flowed cooperatively, and by evening, a magnificent serving of stew awaited everyone who wanted to stop by for supper. A parade of people donated to our ministry, buying quarts of stew to take home and enjoy later with family or friends. What a tiring, but magnificent day!
I can think of a few times when I’ve found myself “in a stew.” But not so with this stew-cooking venture. This was refreshing. It felt good. Work, yes! Discipline, yes! Time, yes! Commitment, yes! Fulfillment, YES! Thanks to all who made it possible!
Next year I want to do this again. Oh, and with God’s help, I want to do my part to make other ventures–especially those that involve complex issues or tasks–into positive times of refreshing goodness.