Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Gift

A dear friend of mine is in Africa this week.  I have been in contact with her via email and she has shared some of her stories.  One such story is of a village where the families make a living by running a primitive rock quarry.  The feelings it erupted in me are fire-like in intensity and crushing in their empathy.  I am reading Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts and have been steadfast in searching for beauty in everything as I turn the pages of this transformative narrative.  Then I read the story of my friend.  Of the quarry.  Of the hungry children.  And I balk at presumed beauty and inside I scream at my Savior, "Where is the beauty?!"  Almost audibly, He whispers into my soul, "It's in the gift." 

This is her story.  His story.

A family sits at the bottom of a mountain.  Their skin dark as night and their hands etched with the scars of a wounded life.  A small boy rises and begins the long trek up the mountain...and then down he comes, slowly...deliberately.  He stumbles.  The rock he is balancing on his head almost brings him to his knees.  He steadies himself...thinks of his hungry sister...and continues down the mountain. 

At the bottom, his mother breaks the rock into pieces.  No fancy equipment...just the resolve of a woman determined to feed the hungry mouths that stare at her wonderingly every morning. 

The father.  He peddles.  Please buy our rock...take what we have to's not much but it's all we have and it's hope.  My son carried it wife perfected it and my daughter is starving. 

A sale...relief...gratefulness.  One dollar and it's enough to feed the mouths today. 

The sun sets.  The family sleeps.  And they awake to the picturesque view of the sun rising over a mountain of glory...but the glory whimpers under the crush of empty stomachs and souls searching for hope.

The boy gathers his resolve and begins again...up the mountain...down the mountain...stumbling but always balancing and marching forward.  The rock is smashed and the mother carries it down the gravel road to the father.  She limps as the fabric tightens around her foot bleeding with the cuts of the glorious mountain.  A stranger approaches her and she stops.  A white woman dressed peculiarly inquires about the fabric tied around her aching foot.  She tells her story.  The story of her life...the cuts of the mountain...the paradox of the beauty cutting deep into her as she survives on its sustenance. 

The white woman listens and the wounds of the black woman cut deep into her own soul.  She takes off her own shoes and gingerly hands them to the mother.  The woman stares, incredulously at the gift.  For me?  For free?  Every day I work tirelessly alongside my family to survive and you are offering me that which carried you into my world?  For nothing?  No work?  Her eyes steady.  The disbelief of it all melds with the grace and the sacrifice and she takes them.

She walks towards her husband.  Stiffly...oddly...her toes scrunched and crowded.  Her eyes gleaming and her heart rejoicing.  Not in the day.  Not in the mountain, full of glory in the twilight.  Not in the dollar made.  Not in the shoes.  But in the gift.  She rejoices in the story of a stranger bestowing a gift and ambling through the rest of the village barefoot.  Just like the natives.  Forsaking comfort and entering into the world of the meek and forsaken.  Inspiring hope in a hopeless land.  Just like Jesus.
"Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."  - Matthew 25:40


  1. Oooohhhh... this one goes STRAIGHT to my heart. I'm halfway through an email to you so I'll tell you more there :) Thank you for sharing this story!

  2. How awesome. I read another recent piece today (printed) and immediate I responded to Tammy... "this person is a really good writer." How funny that it was someone I knew and adored?

    I hope life is treating you and your family well. It has been a really long time. I'm glad you're doing this. You're rather good at it. ;)

  3. It's great to hear from you! We are doing well. Thanks for the compliment...hopefully I've redeemed all of those subpar science papers. ;)