It happened again, just the other day. I stopped by my dear friend's house and carried in a bag full of various plastic containers, dishes, etc., all from her kitchen. When I left a little while later I held in my hand a bag full of similar items from my kitchen. I smiled as I got in my pickup. You see... my friend and I have kind of a revolving kitchen. Simply put, we share things, and often. If I cook up something I know she'll love, I set a little aside and take it to her next time I head into town (where she happens to live) and she does the same for me. Or, I'll bake up a pan of goodies for her whole family to enjoy (her husband and two adorable boys) Usually, though, our exchanges are much less intentional, one or the other of us at the other person's house and we just end up sending something home. Sometimes when she is at the market and finds something she knows I would love, she'll buy some and bring it along when she comes. It just seems we can hardly visit one another empty handed. Thus... the kitchen items going back and forth, creating what I like to call, the revolving kitchen.
It CAN have its frustrations, of course. Sometimes I'll start to search for a certain item (and with a fairly limited supply of kitchenware I don't have extra baking pans and such, so when something is missing, I'm stuck!), only to remember, after moments of wondering how on earth I could misplace anything in my small kitchen, that I sent it to my friend's house and have not yet retrieved it. However, the frustration is short lived as I improvise with something else while smiling with thankfulness that I have a dear friend like her. The momentary frustrations are well worth the long-lasting blessings.
I was thinking about our revolving kitchens the other day as I was preparing for my trip back to the States. My friend has taught me a lot about sharing and giving, but I realize that it is actually typical for the culture. I stopped by another friend's house the other day, and as I was leaving she apologized profusely for not having anything "nice" to give me on my way home. She filled my arms with a big bunch of plantains, all the while commiserating that she did not have more to give me. She even offered to send some corn tortillas home with me to accompany whatever I fixed for dinner. Ah yes, friends are a blessing! Another friend did send a bundle of piping hot homemade corn tortillas home with me this past week. I dropped some stuff off at her house and was headed home. She felt sorry for me arriving home late without dinner and quickly wrapped up some tortillas to take along. Just the week before I had brought some watermelon for her, icy cold from my refrigerator, knowing that she doesn't have a refrigerator, neither does she live close to the Mennonites who raise the watermelons like I do. Revolving kitchens... it is the way things are done here among the Maya and Kek'chi people.
But really, their lives are revolving: they care and share with one another so freely. They help each other plant their corn and thatch their houses. While the men work, the women gather to prepare a common meal (and of course share the latest gossip).
A stunning example of their revolving lives took place just a month or so ago. Some other friends of mine lost their home to a fire. Everything was lost. Of course, there isn't fire insurance, and the family of five (parents, a six year old, and 8 month old twins) was left homeless and with only the clothes on their backs. Since I had a vehicle, I was able to be there ahead of most others, and took some of the necessities: diapers for the babies, food, some clothes. So very little compared to their glaring need, but at least it was a start. A couple days later I listened to the pastor in a neighboring village (where this family is originally from) mention the tragedy and announce that he would open the church that afternoon for those who would like to bring donations for the family. I thought he wouldn't get much response, because no buses travel on Sunday, and the people would have no way to go to down to buy things, or get money from the bank. That afternoon I watched in amazement as person after person came with gifts: pots, pans, cups, a couple spoons, sugar, corn, beans, clothes, buckets (highly-prized in these communities for carrying water, laundry, and storing clothing), etc. Most items were already loved, but still very usable. Everyone brought what they could. For people who often live in single-roomed thatch houses with only the bare necessities, they are a generous people. For example, the pastor's belongings could all easily fit in a large van, and yet... they give.
My heart was convicted that afternoon as I sat there. Tears teased the corners of my eyes as I saw people with so little give so much. I realized afresh that they have more than revolving kitchens, they have revolving hearts. For them, to give is just a way of life. No matter how little you have, you share. When you cook a pot of beans, you send some over to your mother-in-law, just in case she hasn't cooked beans today. When tragedy strikes, you don't think of the fact that you might need those sheets next week, you give them, because your neighbor needs them today. I want a heart like that. A heart that loves and gives. A heart that has received much from our Father, and therefore has much to give to others. I don't want to hold on to things just because I might need them, or because they make me comfortable, I want to bless as I have been blessed. I want to pour out as fast as Christ pours in. I want a revolving heart. Do you?