Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A lesson on gratitude

Winding our way through a maze of small mud-brick huts, we finally
reach our destination. A small wall surrounds the hut, with a piece of
tin as a door. I pull back the tin and enter the tidy courtyard where
I see things neatly in their place: three plastic bowls and two large
metal pots in one corner where a fire is still red and alive, a mat is
carefully laid down in a different corner where beans are evenly
spread out, drying in the blistering African sun, four large sticks
and some grass woven together creates a covering just to the side of
the hut, and that is where we find our sought after guest. She is
sitting on a small mat, wearing a bright pagne as a skirt and a
threadbare t-shirt. In her hands is a cluster of peanut plants. She is
so concentrated on removing the peanuts from the plant that she hardly
notices our arrival. It isn’t until we set down the large sack of
grain that she looks up from her task and smiles a wide, almost
toothless smile and begins clapping her hands. All morning we had been
delivering grain and soap to local widows, and she was one of our last
stops of the day. I was severely sun burnt, and exhausted from a long
morning in the sun, but there was something that drew me to this
woman. There was something about her that caused me to pay close
attention. Maybe it was her very neatly kept courtyard (not all of the
homes we had visited were in such condition) or maybe it was the way
she was humming to herself as she worked, but this woman exuded joy.
As with all of the distributions, we exchanged the grain and soap, and
prepared to pray for the woman. Novaloum, the Burkinabe in charge of
the distribution, began conversing with the woman in Moore. Her words
lingered in the air, much like the smoke from the nearby cooking fire.
Novaloum explained to us that this woman was almost completely blind,
and unable to walk. He explained that this grain was her main source
of food because she could no longer work in the fields to provide for
herself. As Novaloum shared parts of her story with us, I couldn’t
take my eyes off of this beautiful woman. The joy and gratitude and
hope were deeply woven into her, it’s almost like those things weren’t
just an attitude she possessed but they were her reality. She was
hope. She was joy. By any standards her circumstance was dismal, but
by looking at her you would NEVER know. As I shook her hand to say
goodbye, she held on for a few moments longer, whispering “Wend na
songe” which means, “God bless you” in my ear. Maybe it was the heat,
but I just about fell apart when she let go of my hand. I was so
deeply moved by this woman. She had so very little. She had lost her
husband, her body was failing her, and she almost completely dependent
on others to care for her, yet she was radiating love and generosity.
For years I’ve read where the Bible talks about caring for the orphans
and widows, and I had always assumed that it was our duty, that we
were supposed to do those things because that’s what set us apart. But
really, I think God wants us to do these things so that he can teach
us the TRUE meaning of gratitude and generosity and love. I think that
God wants to give us something when we do these things. I know that
that woman gave me a priceless gift. That moment where she gently held
my hand, humming sweet blessings to me, that moment will forever be
mine. I will forever remember the look of delight in her sparkling
eyes and the youthful way she clapped her hands in excitement at our
arrival. I think that THAT moment is what God wanted to give me, and
for that I am forever grateful.

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