Meditation on a Potato

Author: Amy Ostwald

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:2-4 (NRSV)

When my daughter Seren was visiting last December, I griped to her about one of the Russet potatoes that a Safeway shopper had selected for me. While I appreciated the free “pick up and go” shopping service during these COVID times, I told her, I was annoyed that the fresh produce selected for me was often sub-par. I held out a malformed, stubby little potato to illustrate my point.

Seren groaned and rolled her eyes. She explained that because of people like me, plant breeders have to devote a ton of energy to the appearance of produce instead of focusing more on qualities that really make a difference for people. (Seren is currently in grad school working with Nigerians and Colombians to develop a more nutritional and drought-resistant version of Cassava that will improve the health of malnourished peoples.) And further, she continued— because of people like me, produce like this potato often ends up having to be thrown away.

Yikes! I began to mentally prepare my defense: this odd potato was more difficult to peel, it wasn’t exactly two servings but too big for one, a guest might not find it appealing… But fortunately, at this point, I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut. These excuses would surely have elicited another groan and eye roll.

I must admit that I was kind of shocked by what this conversation revealed about me; just when I thought I was “woke” and fully aware of how my place of privilege shapes my view, this Millennial exposed another blind spot. I see that I still hold unconscious attitudes shaped by class and cultural norms. And worse– when my blind spots are pointed out, defensiveness is my first impulse.

The potato ended up being a very fine potato to eat, of course— and as I ate, I found myself acutely grateful for this root vegetable and for the workers’ hands that brought it to me. I am reminded that I am still a work in progress, even at 62; apparently this expansion-of-consciousness journey never ends. There is yet more to be revealed, I am sure of it, and I should no longer be surprised. I wonder what’s next?

PRAYER: God of light and revelation, I place myself into your hands. Search me and know me. Help me to learn gracefully as I listen humbly to others. AMEN

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