Reflections In A Farmer's Market

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It is my day off and Peggy has asked me to accompany her on her weekly trek to the Dekalb Farmer's Market. The lure for me (in addition to enjoying the company of my best friend) is a coffee bar that offers fresh, roasted-before-your-eyes coffee beans in 34 varieties from such places as Kenya, Guatemala, Columbia and Hawaii. The aromas, each with subtle uniqueness, intrigue the discriminating sense of smell. I browse as Peggy disappears into a sea of jostling people and shopping carts. From the ceiling of this mammoth warehouse wave brightly colored flags representing every nation on the globe - big nations like Germany and Japan as well as lesser known Bhutan and Benin and Comoros. The shoppers are nearly as diverse as the designs on the flags - olive-skinned women with shinny black hair and red dots on their foreheads, short people with yellow hues wearing oriental garb, dark-skinned African Americans in western attire. The market employees all wear large nametags which display their first name, country of origin and spoken languages. I am amazed that almost every one speaks two or three languages besides English.

I stop to speak with Semere who is breaking open a crate of fresh green vegetables which I do not recognize. He is from east Egypt and speaks Arabic and Tigrina. He has been employed at the market for eight years and says that it is a very good place to work. His produce section is filled with a most remarkable array of vegetables, roots and herbs, perhaps a third of which I have tasted at some time in my life. Fawzid, who speaks Darray and Pashitoo, is sauteing some daikon (an oriental radish) with chicken, potatoes and several herbs and spices. She offers me a sample. The smell is unusual but tantalizing, and the taste delightful! She hands me a colorful "Facts & Recipes" brochure on daikon.

A little man with a fishnet catches my attention. It is Xuan, who speaks Vietnamese and Chinese, and works the fish market. A customer has selected a large catfish from a school of perhaps a hundred and Xuan is skillfully isolating the chosen fish into one corner of the tank. One scoop of the net and the thrashing creature is out of the water, into a plastic bag, covered with ice and on its way to the smiling customer's frying pan. Xuan tends a host of other live sea creatures as well- eels, tilapia, lobster, trout, carp, crabs, clams and crayfish. Almost every specimen of edible marine life is on display in one form or another - fresh, fillet, salted, steaks.

The breads, the cheeses, the wines, oils, spices, nuts - the freshest foods that the earth can yield are displayed in magnificent array. And the colorful peoples from all over our globe gather to offer their earnings in exchange for the earth's bounty. In this place in this moment there is energy and excitement. Very far away is the terror of war that plagues the homelands of many who bustle about here today. Famine and starvation is forgotten for a moment in the bliss of abundant food. The ugliness of racism seems remote in this place of vigorous exchange.

There is something very right, even inspiring about this small hub in the earth's great economy. Quality is high, transactions are fair, interactions are respectful. And the bounteous array quickens even the heaviest heart with thoughts of feasting. Is there something about feasting, or preparing to feast, that releases us humans to forget our historic distastes for each other? Such certainly appears to be the case here today. Or perhaps what I witness is simply the blessing of a free economy that facilitates vigourous exchange among the peoples of the world. In truth I know too little of these things to make intelligent commentary.

But this I know. What I see in the Dekalb Farmers Market kindles my imagination of realities yet to come, of a Kingdom that embraces the full range of human diversity, and of a feast hosted by the Creative One to which we all are invited. These sights, smells, sounds are the joyful reminders that one day the economies of earth will yield abundance for all its inhabitants. And those who have known the pain of ethnic cleansing, starvation, expulsion and exclusion will feast together in hilarious celebration with those from whom they have been estranged. A prayer wells up from somewhere deep within me: Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Soon.

Bob Lupton

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