Thinking back of gifts given and received and some of the best memories I have are of the unexpected gifts.
A meaningful gift arrived in the hands of a Turkish child.
Jack and I were on a road trip driving north from the Mediterranean through the Taurus Mountains. We were traveling on a religious holiday (Kurban Bayram) and were uncertain as to whether or not we would find restaurants open midday along the way. This uncertainty about our lunch destination was reason enough to plan a picnic and the weather was mild and lovely, so inviting for a meal outdoors. What better way to break up the hours of driving to our final destination in Cappadocia than to plan a picnic en route?
On our way out of Antalya we stopped at the local market. Fresh cheeses, olives shiny and varied, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers along with seasonal fruit were all piled from the stalls into our basket. As an after thought we picked a perfect watermelon which we thought we would enjoy at our journey’s end with some cheese and perhaps a glass of raki.
Winding down the north side of the mountains we passed through numerous small villages strung out along a mountain river. Four or five hours had passed since leaving the city and now came the task of choosing our spot for a picnic. As we slowed down through a village there was a lovely green space beside the riverbank. This spot had an inviting park like quality and was overlooked by village houses built on a higher elevation.
We pulled the car onto the grass, climbed out, spread our picnic blanket and started to unpack the picnic fare. Within five or ten minutes of sitting to eat a child arrived running from a nearby home carrying a loaf of flatbread, lavash, warm from the oven. When we looked up towards the homes there was the Mother of the child watching and waving from the balcony of her home as the child delivered the bread.
Before the child could skip off back home Jack opened the trunk of the car and was able to send the messenger back home proudly lugging the watermelon that we had purchased a few hours earlier. It was an exchange of gifts set in motion by the inherent hospitality of the Turkish people and culture.
I love an unexpected gift. A loaf of bread may be amongst the most basic and ordinary of life’s needs but the generosity with which it was given and shared has stayed in my mind and has a place as one of my most meaningful gifts.
Bread within the Christian and Islamic traditions has religious significance and it is not lost on me that there was a wonderful commonality of value in the gift given at our picnic. The bread was blessed and we were blessed through that gift.
Turkey has been the source of many unexpected gifts for me; relationally, educationally, culturally and beyond. In this season of gift giving I am so thankful to reflect on the abundance that has come my way represented by a warm, simple loaf of bread.