Twenty years ago Robert and I moved to Westlock County, Alberta, Canada. Our farm felt a long ways from nowhere, far from family and friends. One night in that first lonely season darkness had settled around the new house we’d just built, when a set of lights moved up our long driveway. Then more lights, and yet another set of lights. I opened our door to a steady stream of people. The neighbours had called a traditional housewarming party and had come to welcome us into our new community. It was so special for us. These people became our family. At the end of the evening, someone handed us an envelope full of bills, a gift from everyone there.
I kept that envelope in the table beside our bed, always planning to use it for something very special. Every so often I’d see it, but that very special thing never materialized. Last week we were packing our house up, new renters would be coming soon, and we’d made our home back in Switzerland. I found that envelope again. It was time to use it.
Before leaving for Switzerland again we had supper with friends at the hotel near the airport. I paid the supper in cash, with a pile of bills from that envelope. I didn’t think much of it, but the waitress sure did. She was so excited – she was a young girl and these were such old bills! When she saw the $20 bill, she asked, “Which country is that from?”
“There”, I showed her. “It says Canada in big letters on the front of the bill.” She took those bills, said they were hers now and ran through the bar showing them to everyone. I think we could have asked for anything right then!
The next morning we gave a $5 bill to our waitress from China, who was just as excited. She would keep it for herself. The waitress had been a farmer in China, so we quickly established a connection. The next $5 went as tip to the shuttle bus driver, a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip, who has been in Canada for ten years. He too was excited, saying he would keep it for his children, and what a blessing we were to him. He then proceeded to tell us what it was like to live in the Gaza Strip.
Thank you, my neighbours! You gave us a special evening twenty years ago when you took us into your hearts. You gave us another special evening last night with friends. You gave two waitresses and a shuttle bus driver a special gift. I’ve kept the envelope with the last few bills. I have children and grandchildren too. If everyone else thinks those bills are so exceptional, I had better keep some myself!
It took twenty years, but that gift became a very special event! .