The Green Handkerchief
Early one morning Wesley and I were sitting at the dining room table drinking coffee. We are both early risers and most days we would have the house to ourselves for a little bit while everyone else slept. I would come upstairs to find the coffee brewed or brewing. We would fix our cups and sit and talk. Anyway, at some point in the midst of our talking and coffee-drinking, Wes asked me if I needed a piece of gauze. Huh? What? I looked down to see blood dripping from my elbow onto his dining room table. Eww! Gross! Yuck! Sorry, Wes. Good thing he loves me. I was never quite sure how the injury happened, but soon after I got there I scraped the skin off of my right elbow. It was that kind of thing where you just rough up the skin on the surface and it doesn't bleed at all when it first happens. It hadn't hurt a bit. But then, over time blood seeps up to the surface. Like a kid with a skinned knee. It always looks worse than it is when it scabs up. I suspect that I skinned it crossing one of those swinging wooden bridges that link the mountains going to the waterfall on my first afternoon there. The railings, such as they were, were unfinished tree branches. Lol! That was part of the charm. I cleaned up the table, held a paper napkin to my elbow, and the conversation continued as though nothing had happened. After a few minutes it scabbed over again. And then I forgot all about it. But the problem with skinning up the surface above a joint is that the constant movement is not very conducive to healing, and you keep breaking it open again. It's really just an annoyance, and probably no one except Wes even knew of it. But I busted it several more times before it had healed up well enough to no longer bleed. I really am going somewhere with this. Be patient. :) Near the end of the week we had gone back to the machete store at my request. Zelma's kids had each chosen one earlier in the week to take home as a souvenir, and I had decided that I would purchase a machete to take home to my son. I already knew which one I wanted, so this shouldn't take long. Now, the machete store was really a very old (albeit very cool) dusty, dirty version of a hardware-type store. Every public place is dirty in the Dominican. There are heaps of garbage everywhere on the streets. Puddles of water in the road may and probably do contain sewage. Wes jokes often about building codes. There essentially are none. Few that are enforced, anyway. It's the same for safety and sanitation laws. And traffic laws. It's just each man for himself. Most of the people are poor and there is very little pride of life happening. So, as I raised my arm to point out the machete that I would like to purchase (which was on display high above my head), my elbow scab cracked and it started to bleed again. Nice. I had only brought my small hipster into the store. No tissues. I looked around to see if I could spot anything that would be even remotely clean enough to use to fix the problem. Nothing. Not even a piece of old newspaper. Ugh! Now in the states we would solve the problem quickly by finding the nearest bathroom and unrolling a few squares of toilet paper. Not happening here. First of all, you would be hard pressed to find a bathroom. Secondly, it would be beyond filthy. And third, it would no doubt have NO toilet paper in it. We had an issue while in the capital, but I'll tell of it another time. :) So, I did the only thing left to do. I appealed to our fearless leader. He would know what to do. He did. Wesley pulled out his big ol' oversized hunter green handkerchief and handed it to me. He grinned at me and assured me that he had not yet used it. I didn't care if he had just blown his nose into it at this point. I was desperate and grateful! After a few minutes of bleeding onto that handkerchief, my elbow wound sealed up again and we continued on our merry way. So now I had Wesley's soiled-with-my-blood handkerchief in my possession. I knew that it would clean up easily with some good soap and cold water, but I didn't do any laundry while I was there. I could have rinsed it out in the shower and returned it, as I washed a few of my own things that way, but I knew that the warm water of the shower would set the stain, and I wanted to return it in perfect condition. And so, instead, I put it in with my dirty clothes and brought it home with me. I am sending a few things down to the Lane's soon in the mail. I will just include the cleaned handkerchief in the package. That was my intention, I promise. But I've changed my mind. I'm keeping it. Yes, I do know that some might consider that stealing. Tough! The handkerchief cleaned up perfectly. It looks brand new. But I see it differently than the cloth napkin that it really is. It reminds me of the Lanes and their work, and my love for them. So I keep it next to my prayer list, at my favorite place to be alone with God. And as I pray, I am now reminded of my friends, laboring away in a foreign field, and I pray for them with love and tears every time I see it. There will be other oversized handkerchiefs for Wesley down the road. This one is mine!