(A year ago, I was in Nepal. This is one of the stories I found there. First published April 9, 2015.)
The river bed was lined with rocks. The river didn’t run through a national park. The banks were open to the public. So the rocks were free anyone willing to pick them up and carry them away.
To get to the footbridge, you had to walk between and over piles of rocks that someone had picked from the river. The piles were about knee high. Some rocks were the size of a loaf of Wonderbread, most were the size of two 1-pound bags of M&Ms.
There was a woman squatting by a pile of rocks. She had a large flat rock in front of her. She had a 2 pound sledge hammer in one hand. She had a metal ring with a wooden handle in the other, the kind of ring youd use to cut out the really big sugar cookies that make a great base for frosting.
She was putting chunks of rock in the ring. She was holding the handle of the ring. She was pounding the rock.
She was making hand-crafted gravel.
That’s what we’d call it in the artisanal West. We’d pay a premium for gravel shaped by hand rather than by machine. We’d look at path covered wtih gravel and say, “And an artist shaped this gravel.”
She called it survival. With few other options, with no cost for raw materials, she gathered rocks and pounded them into gravel. She loaded them into a bag and carried them up the hill.
As I eat the Wonderbread and M&Ms and sugar cookies, I wonder whether there is any connection between that woman and the rest of my life. Metaphors I can use cheaply cost her the feeling in her hands.
Is James, the brother of Jesus, writing to me: “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor.” When James and Peter said to Paul, “continue to remember the poor,” were they thinking beyond Paul to me?
When you return from a trip, your body recovers quickly. But then your heart starts to fall apart.