She knew she was going to pack that pink bag long before she did. Onesies, flannel baby blankets, and long sundresses filled it quickly. At the bottom, she placed a necklace and earrings she bought on an island years ago. They were beautiful, but never felt right on her, so they sat brand new in her jewelry chest until God prompted – they belong in this bag.
She was blessed with fine pieces of fabric. Red, brown, black and white with polka dots, a little lace, inches of pink and blue ribbons, and three tiny sequins. She spent hours stitching and stuffing the doll, cutting the edges into shape with her dull, rusted out scissors. It was stifling hot in her hut and her hands were tired, but she kept working, because this handiwork meant she might eat for a day or two, maybe three or four.
She stood at the ship’s railing watching the sun set that morning. And as she stood still and let the breeze wash over her, she noticed a woman, feet away, singing songs of praise. It was just the two women, a few others passed by. It was a special moment, a special day, she knew. This island of Haiti? God brought her here today.
She woke early in the morning. Today was the day, her ship had come in. A boat, “Thank God” painted on the side, was waiting for her that morning at the dock. She held her name badge like it was gold. It was her pass, twice a month, a promise of hope for her family. It brought her to the peninsula, a fenced off place privileged few were allowed to go.
She entered the gates into the market, knowing full well that was the only place she would connect with any real bit of Haiti. Her heart once believed travels to deeper parts of Haiti would be in store for this day, but circumstances, maybe God, had her here for now. She found her special place in the market, among a row of sweet souls. A woman was there with her hand stitched doll of brown, red, and black and white polka dots. Beautiful, she thought, and her daughter agreed. The grown women beamed as cash was exchanged for a doll. She inquired about the woman’s name and took a picture to mark the occasion, for this doll and Margaret were not to be forgotten.
She arrived that morning with hope, and hope was all Margaret knew in those moments waiting at the market. Hope in the shape of a ship came twice a month, and as the first passengers walked into the market, hope glimmered a bit brighter when a mama, her daughter and son turned the corner. Hope turned to God-promises kept as the mama and daughter looked twice at the doll. The deepest part of her was moved when mama said “yes,” for so many pass right by. She smiled and beamed broad, braids hanging long, as she posed for a picture with this daughter she knew not. It was a happy moment. This mama and daughter loved the doll and the cash would feed her family. The joy in her heart leapt and all was right with the world.
She returned to the beach and sat on the chaise lounge to realize she’d forgotten that pink bag she packed at home days ago. Prompted by God, she made a second trip to the market. Upon return, her bag was emptied in seconds – the men and women were clearly in need. Had she known, she would have packed much, much more. Margaret took a dress and “need[ed]” that pink bag. But as she handed Margaret the bag, she didn’t tell her a necklace and earrings were at the bottom. It’s better a surprise, she thought. For a necklace and earrings seemed so trivial, unimportant, in light of need evidenced by instant emptying of the bag.
She noticed the woman return with a pink bag. She didn’t want to appear desperate, but she was in need. So when she saw the woman remove a long sundress from the bag, it crossed her mind she could use the fabric to make more dolls, which she could sell to feed her family. She humbly accepted the floral dress that was offered, and mustered enough courage to share she also needed that pink bag, for her load was heavy and her journey was long.
She couldn’t get Margaret and the others from Haiti off her mind, but her ship had docked and it was time to return to the status quo of American life. In the quiet comfort of her master bedroom, she opened a black plastic bag and discovered the doll. She held the doll tenderly in her hands as a precious commodity to be treasured. She turned it and flipped it, inspecting closely the two dolls in one, and that’s when she noticed something she hadn’t before. Although she assumed, she knew the doll was hand stitched by Margaret, she suddenly saw that doll with fresh eyes. For as she lifted the layers of the doll’s dress, she saw Margaret’s stitches. She saw each one, some short, some long, some turned, some straight. And she noticed the cuts along the edges of the doll’s dress – they were rough and they were real and some were shallow and some were deep. The bands around the doll’s arm were dissimilar – one cut straight across and the other jagged. So imperfect, yet stitched together brilliantly, beautifully. It was a treasure, a masterpiece, and she was blessed to have received this gift.
She returned to the village that evening with the day’s earnings, the floral dress, and the pink bag with the jewelry hidden in the bottom. It was hot and the air was stale in her hut, and she was familiar with the discomfort all of this caused as she settled in for a moment’s rest. She pulled out the dress and peered in the bag. Deep inside she found a treasure, that necklace and the earrings, she’d never possessed such beauty before. She smiled softly, for she knew the best gifts are sent, received, in the quiet.
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Matthew 26:6-13