The Lesson From The Thrift Store Jacket

The Huichol Project

You can’t have a perfect day without doing something for

someone who’ll never be able to repay you. –

-- John Wooden, UCLA Basketball Coach

The terror of sitting on a wooden crate in a freight plane as it rattled and groaned threatening to fall apart as it struggled to fly us into the
Sierra Madres to help the Huichol Indians, shook from me… a pathetic prayer,

“Dear God, If I have to die, make it quick and don’t let it hurt”.

We didn’t die…it was the first miracle of the trip. The second miracle occurred in me as we sat in the tribal meeting of leather faced elders distributing our gifts of clothing before we began our challenging meeting of trying to communicate to people who had no written language and knew only a bit of broken Spanish.

Among the articles of clothing was a jacket I’d bought at a thrift store for my son who kept losing his expensive stylish jackets. I’d warned him if he lost another jacket the next one would come from a thrift store. He lost his jacket and I bought him a nearly new jacket at the thrift store which lacked style and which he refused to wear. It pained me every time he walked out the door coatless, but he needed to learn the hard lessons of being responsible.

Going through the bag of clothing, one elder spotted the coat. His eyes lit up and his huge grin revealed several missing teeth. He carefully lifted the jacket from the bag and held it out in front of him with his thin arms and weatherworn hands. He stared at it for a long time then pulled it towards his chest and hugged it as if he were holding a miracle, an answer to his prayers. At last he slipped on the jacket.

“Oh, no the sleeves are too short I gasped as by body tensed. He didn’t seem to notice. Style meant nothing to him, perfect fit was a luxury he didn’t expect. He was simply grateful for the gift of warmth.

Tears filled my eyes as I witnessed true humility and genuine gratitude for this jacket that had cost me all of $3.00. An image of my own overstuffed closets flashed behind my eyes. I realized that in my spoiled society, we’d never done without. Humility and gratitude were only words we’d read in scripture. I closed my eyes and reflected on the value of struggle and lack in the development of a humble soul.

As we left the village to begin our ascent up the mountain, about a half mile ahead we saw a mother walking, barefooted with her baby curled hammock-style in her apron lying so still…

I said a silent prayer for all of us that she would stay healthy, that her baby would survive and that I would never forget the lessons of the thrift store jacket and the tiny still baby wrapped in its barefooted mother’s apron.

Epilogue: We were able to get the village a clean water system and save the babies, one third of which had been dying from contaminated water…and also build them a small hospital. We were so grateful to have the privilege of doing something for someone who could never pay us back in the material sense but who gave us something much greater, a life altering experience.

I sought my soul
But my soul I could not see
I sought my God
But God eluded me
I sought my brother
And I found all three.
- Anonymous
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Excerpt From: Rising From Ashes; Discover Your Hidden Power Through Adversity