Gleaning in Times of Pandemic

by Mar 15, 2020Culture, General

A couple of weeks ago I attended an event called Business for the Common Good where I got to hear from several amazing faith-driven entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders. The whole event was extremely impactful, however; one session stood out to me in particular. Aimee Minnich, of the Impact Foundation, spoke to our group about the concept of “Generous Business Practices”. As many would assume, this included speaking about charity, tithing and traditional investing for a return, but it also included a fourth topic, called gleaning. 

For those who may be unfamiliar, here’s how The Theology of Work Project explains gleaning: 

“Gleaning is a process in which landowners have an obligation to provide poor and marginalized people access to the means of production (in Leviticus, the land) and to work it themselves. Unlike charity, it does not depend on the generosity of landowners. In this sense, it was much more like a tax than a charitable contribution. Also, unlike charity, it was not given to the poor as a transfer payment. Through gleaning, the poor earned their living the same way as the landowners did, by working the fields with their own labors. It was simply a command that everyone had a right to access the means of provision created by God.”

You can read more about gleaning in this article written by Aimee Minnich where she talks about specific examples of gleaning in our modern age. Today, however, I wanted to focus in on what this topic means for our society during this COVID-19 crisis. 

There is no shortage of articles out there now talking about the local and national impact of this virus on our economy. Particularly, individuals working hourly jobs in the service industry (namely at restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc) are likely to experience the brunt of the impact as consumers stop going in to eat and drink. While this is somewhat tempered by the efforts of delivery services, see this article about Grubhub, it’s still going to hurt. Having worked in a coffee shop for three years, I know how meaningful tips are to the wages that many of these people receive. And I believe that’s where “gleaning” can be demonstrated. 

For those of us that can work from home and maintain our jobs, I believe that we must begin practicing gleaning in earnest now. People don’t need just our money, they need work too! So while I do encourage donating during times of crisis like this, consider also adding a large tip to your delivery this week. If you venture to a coffee shop, give them a generous tip as well. 

I love that people have been suggesting buying gift cards from local businesses to use later, but don’t just stop there. When you go back in, tip well. Take an Uber/Lyft to get there to provide a job for that person! Maybe take the bus, even though you have a car. In times like these, those of us that help must do as much as possible (while being mindful of our context) to provide work for others, allowing them to glean from our labor. 

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