It was hot, very hot, in the northern Arizona desert. The traveler wandered slowly along, serape draped over his shoulders, bare feet blistered and burning. The intense heat of the sun had surprised him. He never expected the Navajo reservation, located so far north in the state, to be as inhospitable in its temperatures. The Navajo had taken pity on him and offered him butter for his burnt feet and a blanket to throw over his reddened shoulders. Foolishly, he had slathered the butter on and now paid the price as the heat of the burn drove inward.
His stomach ached with hunger and he looked for a place to find some food. There wasn’t much in this remote area, but he’d been told by the natives he met, that the missionaries at the house up ahead might help him. Shading his eyes with his hand, he gazed toward the mission house. It stood tall, its red porch standing out among the white rocks of the mountain behind it. He readjusted his blanket, a gift given by strangers to a stranger. His heart overflowed with gratefulness as he thought of the goodness he had encountered in this lonely place.
Heading toward the house, he stumbled up the steps of the red porch and threw himself on one of the empty benches by the porch railing, his buttered feet leaving oily footprints. The door opened and a tall man stepped out. His face showing his surprise at the source of the sound on the porch.
“Do you need help?”
Was there more goodness in this place? His heart leapt. If only he could get to the nearest city where he might find a rescue mission, get some food, some sleep, some hope to begin again.
“I need help, yes. I need to get to Flagstaff.” He might as well put it out there and ask; he had no choice.
“I can do that. I can take you to where you can catch a bus and I’ll buy you a ticket to Flagstaff. Sit right there, I’ll be back in a minute.”
The traveler leaned back against the porch and rested.
“Would you like a drink and something to eat?”
Opening his eyes with surprise, the traveler looked up into the face of a woman. It must be the man’s wife. He found a cold drink placed in his hand and looked down as a thick sandwich was handed to him. What was this? Another kindness? He drank the drink thirstily and quickly gulped down the sandwich.
The tall man was his hero now as he eagerly scrambled into the waiting truck. Together, they headed down the highway and the traveler soon found himself settled comfortably on the Greyhound bus headed for Flagstaff. He reached to pull his blanket around his shoulders. Wait! Where was it? Where could he have left it? His gift from the reservation was gone! Ah! The porch. In his excitement, he must have left it on the porch. Well, alright. The tall man could have it. Maybe he could use it. It felt good to be the giver for once. Bless that blanket. It had been a long time since he’d given a gift.
As her husband headed off in the truck with their latest visitor, the woman sighed. Living just off I-40 with only a few curio shops and truck stops nearby, she was used to having travelers stop in. There weren’t many places to go for help when stranded in this part of the country. She’d fed other weary travelers, people finding their way. Picking up the plate and glass left on the porch, she noted the footprints left by their recent visitor. That was odd. It looked as if he must have had some sort of oil on his feet. Well, she’d seen all sorts here. Something flapped in the wind, and she noticed a striped Mexican blanket laying on the porch seat. She picked it up. After a good washing, it would be pretty handy and the colors were pretty too.
Over the next few years, the family — the man and woman had six children in the span of time — moved from the Navajo reservation in the northeast corner of the state to the northwestern side of the state, living now in a little town, still far from cities and the rush of life. The blanket moved with them. Sometimes it wrapped toddlers and kept them warm while swinging on the new porch’s swing. Sometimes it laid decoratively on the back of the couch, reminding all who came that they were in the great Southwest. The blanket traveled with them wherever they went, stored in a cupboard or used on a daily basis. Few knew its story, a story of giving from one person to the next, but the tall man and the woman remembered.
When one of the last daughters married, the woman gave her the blanket to take to her new home. Blankets are always needed and indeed this one had weathered the storms of life very well, and still looked almost new. The daughter took the blanket to her new home and settled in. It was put away for just a little while as the couple prepared for a baby. Along the way, the daughter was given a gift of a rocker. Purchased at a thrift store, it lacked pillows. Someday, she decided, I’ll make pillows for that rocker.
And then one day the daughter had an idea. She opened her wooden chest and took out the blanket.
“Perfect!” she said to herself, and smiled quietly. This was her project for the day. Without hesitation, she cut and sewed and hummed as she worked. When her project was finished, joy filled her heart as she looked at her handiwork. Yes, yes it was just as it should be. That old blanket looked as good as new. The rocker was ready and she picked up her little boy and sat him in it. He looked just right. Now to tell her mother of her accomplishment…..
“Mom, you know that blanket you gave me? Let me send you a picture of it now.”
“Do you know the story of the blanket?” said the woman. “Let me tell you….”
And so, the blanket continues its work, begun on a remote reservation by generous people who did not know the journey the blanket would take, protecting a weary soul, making homes more welcoming, holding sleeping babies, and providing comfort for a new mother. Hope revived is precious, a kindness is never too small and goodness is never out of fashion.