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Grateful For The Gifts

November 20, 2019

Travel can be a way that God deposits treasure in our hearts. When we see how people live around the world, when we come into their homes, when we look in their eyes, when we hear their stories…the world becomes smaller and warmer and we grow in gratitude for the little things. 

 Years ago I had the privilege of going to India with Compassion International. The beautiful people and culture captivated me, but there was a moment on that trip that changed me. We traveled through this tiny village that was adjacent to the school where the Compassion project operated. It was oppressively hot (to me), and as we hopped off our bus and walked the dirt road in this neighborhood, the aroma hit us immediately.

Trash. Piles of it everywhere.

The stench was overwhelming to our nostrils but surely, it wasn’t polite to show that we were struggling with it. We walked with our guides and greeted people who came out of their homes to see us. Their homes were one room shacks with corrugated tin roofs and dirt floors, the same as the dirt road.

There were no doors, and no head room to stand up inside the shacks but you could stoop or sit. The sole valuable possession in the hut was the family water vessels-clay water jugs that they would carry to the other end of the little dirt road and fill up with fresh water and carry back. Several times a day this was important work of survival in this little village.  

We walked through the trash to greet one family that our guide wanted us to meet. The young mother had a baby on her hip and another child about 6 years old shyly holding onto her leg and she gave us this beautiful smile. She was so happy that her family was part of the Compassion program. As she told us her story through a translator, we gathered closer to hear her. I stepped on a packet of something in the trash pile, that burst open and the contents squirted out on my sandaled feet.

I don’t know what it was, maybe some kind of spice but it was green and gelatinous and I tried to wipe it off with my hand and then, I stopped myself. The young mother had noticed what happened and she was ashamed.  Apologizing to me, she ducked back into her hut and brings out her water jar and tries to wash my feet! I said, “Oh please no, it’s ok, it’s not a problem. Really it’s fine…”, but she persisted.  And now it was my turn to be ashamed. This young woman was taking her precious drinking water that she had to walk more than a mile to get, and pouring it on my feet.

Over the years, that moment and the humility of a woman whose name I don’t know has challenged me and changed me. My dirty feet weren’t the real issue God was after. It was and is, my dirty heart. When we have all we need, we can be so full of pride and be so self-sufficcient that we miss how desperately needy we really are.  Every good gift we have is because of God’s grace and I want to be grateful for these gifts but hold them loosely… with open hands. Open hands that are willing to let go and pour out every drop of the most valuable things God has put in them.

I love this sweet video that shows a family waking up to discover afresh, all the ordinary things around them that are gifts. Lights that turn on and off, water, a shower, shoes.. and each other. This Thanksgiving may you see the gifts all around you and may it fill your heart with joy and shape the way you live.  As for me, I want to live like a young mother in a tiny Indian village, who would wash the feet of a stranger with her drinking water. 

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