harvest and helping go hand in hand

Remarkably, even after the last couple of frosts, I was able to glean still firm stalks of rhubarb from the common picking areas at the community garden a couple of days ago.

Remarkably, even after the last couple of frosts, I was able to glean still firm stalks of rhubarb from the common picking areas at the community garden a couple of days ago. Together with a cup of water, a healthy tablespoon of honey and some citrus zest I should have the makings of a last small batch of stewed rhubarb. Once simmered and cooled, this will provide a great garnish for my morning bowl of cereal.

With a few carrots yet to dig and a meal or two of Swiss chard still hanging on in my garden box even as the line of white on Grey Mountain creeps closer to the valley floor, the harvest for 2009 here in the Yukon has officially all but ended. The rain, sun, soil and willing hands have again come together to provide a bounty for us. This seems naturally to lead to a desire to share this largesse with others.

As the first cold breezes quicken our steps and thicken our jackets, the fall colours swirling around us enliven our senses to the reality of just how good life is. Almost naturally our thoughts, revelling in splendour, demand the giving of thanks. As we walk our favourite trails a silent prayer to God, Allah, Yahweh, nature or any of the myriad forms of the ‘other’ we and our ancestors have praised over the millennia naturally seem to flow.

Not all, though, share in bounty. Not all, bound down by various forms of poverty, can see or delight in this season. Some only see harshness around them and the coming of cold, bitter winds.

Rob Rainer, the executive director of Canada Without Poverty, wrote an opinion piece in an edition earlier this week of The Mark an daily online forum for news, commentary, and debate by Canadians who have important things to say but normally whose voices don’t reach a national audience. (http://themarknews.com/articles/509-freedom-from-want)

In the article Rainer reminds us that Canada very definitely has this other face. He calls our attention to the 2009 edition of How Canada Performs: A Report Card on Canada. In it The Conference Board of Canada gives Canada a “D” grade for its overall poverty rate (12 per cent) among working-age adults. On issues like child poverty and income inequality our country can muster only a “C.”

“Indeed, in a ranking of 17 peer countries, the board placed Canada 13th for its child poverty rate in the mid-2000s (15.1 per cent, up from 12.8 per cent 10 years earlier), and 15th for its poverty rate among working-age adults (12.2 per cent, up from 9.4 per cent).”

“Too often, the call for action is based on charity, not justice. ‘Help for the vulnerable,’ we hear. But embracing poverty as a matter of human rights – what Louise Arbour calls ‘an international consensus on the minimum conditions for a life of dignity’- changes the frame.” Rainer states that “the tide is turning towards the rights-based approach to poverty.”

Brewster Kneen, noted food advocate and essayist, responded to the Rainer article by stating: “Without economic restructuring, poverty and inequity will not be addressed by any campaign for human rights.” However one chooses to face the issue of poverty, justice is at its root.

We cannot turn our back, though, on the immediate needs around us while we work for justice. Next Wednesday, October 7, students from the three Catholic schools of Whitehorse will fan out across the community from 6 to 8 p.m. on their annual food drive now in support of the Whitehorse Food Bank. Please give generously.

International disaster relief efforts are gearing up to respond to the earthquake and typhoon damage inflicted on South Asian and Pacific countries. Canadian organizations like Development and Peace are responding. You can offer your pledge of support for their efforts by calling 1 888 664-3387 or going online at www.devp.org.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Namaste notes

Saturday, October 3 – Sukkot, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, celebrates the harvest and their journey in the desert. Temporary dwellings are constructed to remind them of Yahweh’s protection of the people of Israel.

Sunday, October 4 – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Mark 10: 2-16.

Sunday, October 4 – St. Francis, patron saint of the environment and animals, is also remembered for his challenges to the status quo and witness for peace in the 13th century.

Monday, October 5 – World Habitat Day’s theme this year is “Planning our urban future,” signalling the need to improve how we deal with our collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.

Monday, October 5 – World Teacher’s Day focuses in 2009 on “the role of teachers within the context of the global financial and economic crisis and the need to invest in teachers now as a means to secure post-crisis regeneration.”