I went apple picking with several members of our family last weekend and while doing so was reminded of a very important lesson. It was a perfect fall day in Wisconsin with the bright shining sun, making the brilliant leaves of red and orange seem like they might burst into flames at any moment. This made the drive through the country to Door Creek Orchard even more spectacular. As it turned out we were late in the season and were actually at the orchard on the last day that people could pick their own apples. This meant we had to walk deep into the orchard to find the trees that still had apples on them, pulling our youngest apple picker in a bright yellow wagon provided by the orchard. This was hardly something we minded given the beauty of the day.
We ended up picking twenty pounds of apples, mostly Jonagolds, Golden Delicious, and Honey Crisps. It is Door Creek Orchard's tradition to encourage pickers to sample the apples as they go, and so we enjoyed a number of apples freshly picked from the trees during the hour we were in the orchard climbing, exploring, and picking. We noticed as we wandered in the orchard that we were surrounded by a beautiful diversity of people, with folks of every age and background, all helping each other along the way.
All week long I have enjoyed the apples we picked. They have been a staple for lunch each day and my wife and I turned several pounds into some wonderful applesauce. I love apples and eat them on a regular basis, but there has been something special about eating these apples we picked ourselves. I don't think that what has made these apples particularly special to me is just that they are so fresh. I think what makes them so special is the intangible enjoyment that comes from the fact that we picked these apples by hand, right from the tree. I know exactly where these apples came from and I connected with their source, the very trees and soil from which they came. Because of this, I have treated these apples with a particular respect and reverence.
All of this serves as a powerful reminder to me as I consider my interactions with others. In the rush of everyday life I sometimes fail to treat others with the respect that they are due. When I slow down though and am mindful enough to remember the Source from which each person has come, I find that I treat others very differently. When I remember the Source that has given life to each person, I am more apt to treat him or her with a certain reverence, one that honors each person's unique way of being in the world.
Each of the apples we picked at the orchard was unique in size, shape, and taste, and yet they all came from the same source. So it is with the people in our lives. Each is unique and yet each comes from the same Source. I name that Source as God. Others name that Source as nature, or the universe, or the divine. However we name that Source, remembering to connect with it when we interact with all that it gives life to, whether that be apples or people, will heighten our ability to savor the unique gift that each of them is to the world.