News and Tribune

October 3, 2013

MAY: Lord of the harvest

Local columnist

— Behind the scenes — and away from the streets of New Albany — pieces and events for Harvest Homecoming 2013 are being unveiled.

The fall celebration is the second-largest street festival in Indiana, shadowed only by the 500 Festival Parade in Indianapolis. For some 46 years Southern Indiana residents have taken to the streets to rejoice for the blessings and harvest at summer’s end.

Although I enjoy the harvest of fruits, vegetables and grains, I have never lived on a farm and experienced the back-breaking work nor the jubilation of the gathering. The closest thing to an autumn reaping in my life’s journey was a weekend during my college years when I volunteered to help a friend bring tobacco into the barns.

The fog-like dust and the overpowering harsh leaf smell brought one of the most severe asthmatic reactions I have ever endured. In only a few winks of an eye — but a multiplicity of wheezes later — I was driving away from the harvest as quickly as my Ford Escort would peddle.

Still, I rarely miss attending Harvest Homecoming. What keeps me coming back is the theme behind the columns during the past month. We need more reasons to celebrate.

Life continually tells us that we aren’t good enough, we don’t have enough, we can’t achieve enough. Time, finances, health and the folly of government jostlings constantly keep a weighty pressure on our shoulders.

Celebrations give us an opportunity to keep perspective. We are reminded that all is not lost, that blessings have been enjoyed, that relationships mean something, and that we can always choose hope. As I walk around Pearl Street and up Market, holding a butter-dripping husk of corn and inhaling a breath of the smoke from grilling pork chops, a little man inside me will be jumping up and down — celebrating!

I will be celebrating a harvest of small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit. Booth after booth will display the amazing talents showcasing the creativity and “craftiness” of our people. I will stop at food servers to see what different foods can be deep-fried. (Dave Parkerson — get your act together for next year!) I will smile as I see hard-working people joining hands to be successful.

I will be celebrating a harvest of family and friendships. Nearly every year friends and family from out-of-town visit to walk the streets with us, share memories and carve new ones, drop a dollar here or there on food and frivolity, and soak in the blessings of meaningful relationships.

As my years stack up high, I am noticing that the stack of important people in my life isn’t nearly so tall. I am too often negligent of celebrating those individuals.

I will be celebrating — and honoring — a harvest of memories. I will remember crisp autumn days, elbow-to-elbow crowded streets, and I will relish the chance to be with the people I love.

But forgive me this year if there are moments when I appear a bit misty-eyed. If I see a white Cinderella horse-drawn carriage — or more poignantly, if I do not — I am likely to be remembering Gary Henderson, the curmudgeonly old, white-whiskered gentleman who owned several carriages. Gary’s life was taken this summer during an apparent break-in at his home.

In a very real sense, this Harvest Homecoming, I will be celebrating Gary. The man who took me under his wing at Sears/Citi to help me be a better manager. The man who knew more about the legalities of bankruptcies and settlements than I would ever hope to know. The man who modeled for me how to disarm irate customers with the tone of the voice.

The man who went with me to watch the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, a class A farm club of the San Diego Padres, instead of attending a boring meeting. The man who was glad to retire early to be home to care for the long-term illness of the woman he loved. Gary. The man who will be missed — and this fall honored and celebrated.

Harvest Homecoming — a time for celebration. And somewhere, next to the pork chops or hamburger sandwiched between Krispy Kreme donuts, pause to give thanks to the Lord of the Harvest. Hasn’t He been good to us all?

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast.