Ah-hah! There was another bright red berry. Alice’s pink-stained fingers plucked it and placed it – point up – in the wooden crate in her other hand. Through the bushes, she caught a glimpse of her nine-year-old brother’s face. Tattle-tale red spots stood out on his chin.
“Maurice! Quit eating the berries!” Alice squawked.
“It was just a squishy one! And I’m hungry.”
Alice sighed. She glanced over her shoulder. They were only three rows into the raspberry patch. It seemed like they had a hundred to go. Two of her older sisters were working their way through from the patch’s other side. At first, that had seemed like a good idea. Now Alice wasn’t so sure. “Well, just make sure you only eat the squishy ones,” she reminded.
Alice and Maurice kept going for a few minutes. Then Maurice said, “I’m hot.”
“I’d tell you to quit complaining, but I’m hot, too. I’d sure like to be fishing right now.”
Suddenly, Alice found herself in the shade of a big shadow. Even before she looked up, she smiled. She knew that shadow.
“How’s it going here?” Alice and Maurice’s sixteen-year-old brother Dan asked as he stopped next to them.
“We’re hot,” Alice said.
“And hungry,” Maurice added.
“Hungry? How many pancakes did you eat for breakfast?” Dan reached over the raspberry canes and ruffled Maurice’s hair. “Well,” Dan got a berry box from the little wagon next to Alice, “why don’t I help you two out for a while?”
“That’d be swell!” the twosome chimed.
“I’ll go ahead of you, Maurice. You can get the berries that I miss.” He winked at Alice as he stepped over the row and started picking.
Alice grinned. If she had to pick a favorite out of her six brothers and sisters, she was pretty sure it would be Dan.
While they kept picking, Dan reported on the baby animals he had cared for that morning, and they laughed when he told about the wobbly lambs and the crazy chickens.
Just then, Alice spotted red farther in than she usually had to reach. Her small hand wriggled through the brambles, trying to avoid the prickly points, but when she pulled her hand out two small scratches showed where the canes had gotten the best of her.
“Why did God have to make raspberry bushes with thorns on them?” she asked.
Dan answered from the other side of the row, “I don’t think I know the exact answer, but I’d say it’s because of sin.”
“Like Dad says?” Maurice asked.
“Yeah,” Dan said. “And like the Bible says. But, you know, a lot of things in life are like raspberries. If you aren’t willing to work to get them, and maybe suffer a little, you might miss out on something really sweet.”
Alice pressed her lips together as she reached for another deeply-hung berry. This time she didn’t even look for scratches. Still, she sighed, “I used to like berry-picking, but we’ve been out here every day this week, and I’m tired of it.”
“Me too,” Maurice agreed. “Hey, but Dan’s here, and he doesn’t even have to be!”
“That’s ‘cause he’s Dan, and he’s just plain nice,” Alice said.
Dan laughed. “Well, it is true that sometimes you just do things because you love people. Just think about how nice it is that we can actually sell these for money – “
“Even with the Depression going on,” Alice added.
“Right. And how Mom and Dad appreciate it that you’re helping,” Dan continued. “They do a lot for us after all.”
Alice pursed her lips and thought on that as they kept picking.
After a while, Dan straightened up. “I hate to say this, but I’ve got to go into town.”
Alice started to say she wished she could go with him but changed her mind. “All right. Thanks for the help!”
“Hey, thanks for your help, Stump,” Dan said, patting her head. “You, too, Maurice.”
Alice wrinkled her nose, Dan was the only person who could still call her “Stump” and get away with it.
“Tell you what, if you keep working on these, I’ll take you fishing on Saturday. How does that sound?”
“Really, Dan?” Alice’s blue eyes danced.
“Sure thing! If it’s raining, we’ll come up with something else. And, Maurice, if you can tell Mom that you haven’t eaten any of the sell-able berries from now till suppertime, I’ll have a treat from town for you.”
“Hmmm,” Maurice thought. “I’d really like that.”
“It’s a deal then. I’ll bring something for you, too, Stump.” He winked at Alice again and then went off on his long legs.
This scene is from my imagination, but it’s based on real-life stories. I’m interrupting my series on the War for Independence because today is a special day. Today would have been my Grandma Alice’s birthday.
Grandma often recounted to us how painstaking raspberry picking seemed in her childhood as she and her siblings had to carefully place each berry – point up – in a box. However, she was grateful for the raspberries because they were one of the few crops her minister-farmer’s family could sell for money during the Great Depression. She also shared how her older brother Dan watched out for her, and that she really did have to endure the nickname “Stump”. (That’s another story for another time.) Her love of fishing continued into her grandmothering years.
With those details, I imagined the above exchanges and actions. I could imagine further on that Grandma never forgot Dan’s words about reaching for the raspberries and doing things out of love for others. As Alice grew up, much of her life reflected those two themes. She sacrificed many times both to attain a goal and for family and friends. Her kind words, funny jokes and rambles down Remembrance Lane sweetened up lives like raspberries on vanilla ice cream.
The thing is that we can’t have real love for others anymore than we can single-handedly make raspberries grow! If the ability to identify and give others-first love comes from the field of a human heart, it will shrivel up eventually. It needs a deeper root so to speak. As Grandma learned along the way, that Root is the God of love, Jesus (I John 4:8, 2 Corinthians 13:11, John 15:12). Awesomely, He’s also the One Who makes raspberries grow! (Colossians 1:16-17, Genesis 1)
So next time you’re rambling down a raspberry row or relishing a raspberry cobbler, maybe it would be a good time to reflect on God’s love for us and to recognize the sweet gifts He has given us – like Grandmas and raspberries. They may only be with us for a season, but the memories they give us continue to offer a harvest.