Monday, July 1, 2013

Mrs. Janey Boyd: A model of mercy in our midst

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to connect with Janey Boyd.  Janey is in her mid-80's, a long-time DC resident (over 60 years), and has been in food justice work going back to the Kennedy administration.  Our connection has been through the Mid-Atlantic Gleaning Network where she helps get crops from fields to poor families of all ages  We share a belief that when we work together, we can solve the world's problems better than when we myopically choose sides or focus on single issues.  She is the kind of person who breezily says children can't learn in schools if they don't get proper nutrition, which is why we can't let those good foods on the farms go to rot, but instead get them into the stomachs.  This sums up our work together.

Mrs. Boyd with Harford Friends School
Despite knowing her over these two years, it was only this past month that I got to personally meet her.  All previous communications had been by phone.  Last week, with a Workcamp group from Franklin, TN, we went twice to her house to drop off fresh collared greens and kale that we had gleaned from a local farm, and I stood in awe as Mrs. Boyd connected with the kids with her message of love, hope and justice.  Her commitment for speaking truth was on display as she told stories of confronting aldermen and judges on elder-care issues, and at the same time motioning for a car to slow down in her alley ("I'm not waving at you, I'm telling you to slow down", she said Friday afternoon as a car drove by).

This morning, I read this in my daily Bonhoefer:
The Merciful
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy."
These persons without possessions, these strangers on earth, these powerless people, these sinners, these followers of Jesus, have in their life with him renounced their own dignity, for they are compassionate.  As if their own needs and their own poverty were not enough, they take upon themselves the needs and humiliation and sin of strangers.  They have an irresistible love for the down-trodden, the sick, the wretched, the degraded, the oppressed, for those who suffer unjustly, for the outcast, for all who are tortured with anxiety.  They go out and seek all who are enmeshed in the toils of sin and guilt.  No distress is too great, no sin too appalling for their compassion...They will be found consorting with publicans and sinners, careless of the shame they incur thereby.  In order that they may be compassionate they cast away the most priceless treasure of human life, their personal dignity and honor.  For the only honor and dignity they know is their Lord's mercy, to which they owe their very lives.
- from A Testament to Freedom 315-316

This sums up Janey Boyd to me.  From her planting of seedling tomatoes to give away, to her connecting people to service and food, to her speaking her truth to the most powerful, she inspires me.  She is a woman of limited financial means, but endless energy and love that she gladly shares with any and all. I am honored to know her and to share her with others.  May she inspire more to be as merciful as she is.