Dirty hands. Porcupine quills and the grace of gifts.
He had a sign on the front of his old work truck and it said Native American. I called him Willie. He was short with a long gray ponytail and he looked like Willie Nelson. And for a few short months he worked on a construction site of the business where I worked. I asked him if was a Native American–an Indian and his voice grew softer and he said, ‘Part. My Grandmother was a full-blooded Sioux.
My Daddy often stopped by where I worked during his lunch or in between factories and on this day Willie happened to be working inside the building and I introduced Daddy to Willie.
Daddy reached out his hand to shake Willie’s hand and he said, ‘You don’t want to shake my hand–it’s dirty.’ And my Daddy, his hand stood firm in mid-air and said, ‘That don’t bother me.’
Willie, he then stroked his hand on his worn blue jeans, trying to clean the dirt away and reached for Daddy’s hand. And the handshake, it was the union of two men much more alike than they realized–
And we all look back on memories and wish the moment would have lasted a little longer.
What Willie didn’t know was my Daddy worked in some kind of maintenance work and electrical work all his life. My Daddy’s hands–they never looked clean even though water ran through his fingers and cracks of hard work, daily. His hands were rough, dry, chapped, strong.
I miss watching my Daddy relate to people such as Willie.
Days later Willie walked in my office carrying a gift. ‘I brought you something. It’s not much. You can hang it on your mirror in your car or you may not even want it.’
And he handed me this necklace with leather and orange, yellow, red, brown and white beads. ‘The long white ones, those aren’t beads–those are porcupine quills and my Grandmother made this.’
Weeks passed and the construction done and Willie, he moved on to another construction site and I never saw or talked with him again. And sadly, I don’t remember his real name.
The necklace–I did hang it on my car mirror and it rode along with me for many miles over the years until the quills grew weak and began to break.
And in a few days we will celebrate the holiday of gratitude. Of giving thanks. This reaching out to others. Seeing two dirty hands gripped together in a bond that may only come around once. The holding on to the treasure of a grandmother who with worn hands and fingers intricately weaved this gift–and then to reach deep and give it away.
The hands on the clock are spinning. Clouds are rolling in and there’s these acts of kindness in our lives that may seem to last for only a brief moment of our time. And we wish for just a second we could go back to only cling to the memory a litle tighter.
And His grace, it comes in the smallest of gifts.