Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Blessing

My Grandpa Landon had an old pickup truck when I was a youngster.  My cousin and I were often on trips with them.  Steve and I always rode in the back unless it was raining or very cold.  On this particular trip, we began to hit at each other with the small pillows that Grandma put in the back to soften the metal truck bed.  As might have been guessed, one of those pillows went out of the truck bed.  Grandpa turned the truck around to retrace the route and find that pillow.  An Indian was standing beside the road holding the pillow.  Grandpa stopped and offered the man a ride.  He got in the back bed of the truck with us.  Since I grew up in Oklahoma, I've always been around Indians.  Our new companion, however, was the biggest man I had ever seen. I still can recall his huge hands and long braided hair that went down his back.  He looked to me like he was very, very old.  Grandpa called him, "Chief," they talked briefly and it seemed that they knew each other.  I'd never been around a "Chief."  I have no idea how old he might have been.  When Grandpa or Grandma would tell this story they would say that Steve and I never said a word while the Chief was in the truck with us and furthermore, we stared at him until Grandma knocked on window and mouthed for us to stop staring.  Chief would smile at us.  He seemed friendly even if we weren't talking.  I don't think he rode with us very long but when he got out of the truck, he put his hand on my head and Steve's and said we were good boys.  There was something about his strong, quiet presence and his hand on my head that was a memorable blessing.  When I was in the Seminary, I heard the Profs talk about the ministry of presence.  When I heard that 'ministry of presence' phrase, I'd think about Chief.  I'm pretty certain that Chief's presence with us in that old truck bed was the cumulative result of the way he lived life.  I wish I could have known Chief for a long time but I don't recall that I ever saw him again.  Nevertheless, he left a deep impression, a blessing, on my life.