It was just an ordinary day with the Saleem family – just an ordinary day.

Grandma was sitting quietly by the fire- her filmy eyes gazing at the flames which she carefully tended. Her movements were painful and slow but she sat patiently, lost in her dreams and memories.

Her own daughter, Sarah, was now mother to three children of her own and she busied herself with her work. Times were really hard and even though she worked from morning till night washing, sewing and making clothes, there never seemed enough money to feed the family as she would like. At times she would sigh – this wasn’t how she had dreamed her life would be. All she’d wanted was to have a precious family of her own that she could love and be proud of – but now life just seemed to be one problem after another.

Her husband, Timothy, did the best he could, tending the goats and looking after their small plot of land growing food for them to eat; but when so little rain fell, the crops were poor.

Sarah often found herself a bit cross and grumpy particularly with her two elder children.

Instead of helping around the house with the sewing and chores, her daughter Ruth would take any opportunity to get back to her favourite pastime, carving little animals out of pieces of wood. Slowly they would take shape in her talented hands,.......but in these hard times what use were they when no one had enough money for food let alone to buy a carved donkey or lamb?

Then there was her son Simon, meant to be out helping with the goats, but all he lived for was his music, playing his flute, and making up new songs and tunes with his friends – what use was that?

     And then there was baby Paul, crawling around the floor, just learning to walk, exploring, into everything, always needing watching, always getting grubby.......... yet his tinkling laugh and sunny smile melted her heart, despite her worries about feeding them all .

Yes it was just an ordinary, ordinary day........

..... And then the stranger came...

Living on the outskirts of a tiny village, they were not used to visitors. The roads were poor and travelling difficult, and yet there it was ... a knock on the door.

Standing there was a tall, kind looking man – such deep beautiful eyes she noticed, but also a rather strained look on his face.

He apologised for disturbing them but he had just twisted his ankle on the rough road and he didn’t think he could walk any further that day. Could he possibly take rest and shelter for a while?

“Of course, of course” said Sarah helping him as he hobbled in and took a seat by the fire with grandmother. There had always been a tradition in their country that every stranger would be welcomed.

But Sarah was flustered. The last thing she really wanted when she had so much else to do was a stranger in the house, and yet another mouth to feed

She began to apologise for the poor state of the house, for grandmother who could hardly see or move, for the children who were never there when you needed them and for baby Paul who would keep trying to clamber onto the stranger’s lap.

The stranger just smiled and said all seemed very well to him.

Soon the rest of the family returned home, surprised to find a new face by the fireside.

They looked at the stranger’s swollen ankle and realised that he wouldn’t be able to travel on for some days.

Grandmother was the first to have a good idea. She’d spent a lifetime bringing up her family and knew all about sprains and illnesses.

“I know a salve that will help ease the pain and speed your recovery” she said- “but first I need some comfrey and some valerian root.”

“Oh I know where I can find them” said her grandson Simon. “They grow near where my friends and I play our music together. I’ll go and fetch some.”

Mother fetched the beautiful wooden bowl and grinder that her daughter Ruth had carved, and as soon as Simon returned she made up the salve with the herbs and roots, also making a bandage from some old clothes.

Father chose some of his best vegetables to make a meal, together with his goat’s cheese, and baby Paul cheered them all with his merry laugh and his tottering steps, so pleased with the excitement that this kind faced man had created.

Now over the next few days the man became less and less of a stranger and more and more of a friend.

Mother Sarah noticed that he understood that there was not much food to go round and he was just so grateful for what they could spare. As he couldn’t easily move with his poorly foot, he offered to help with the sewing and mending and asked Grandma to tell him more about all the herbs and remedies she knew so much about.

Sarah found she could relax just a little. Surprisingly she was enjoying having someone new to look after who was so appreciative of all she did – slowly she began to unwind and enjoy herself more than she had for a long time. She felt strangely happy.

The evenings were particularly special. Once the stranger knew about Simon’s flute playing he asked if he may hear him play, and soon all his friends were coming round to fill the house with song and laughter.

The stranger shared some recipes with Timothy and soon father was excited to think of new crops he could grow in the future.

Just Ruth sat a little away from them all, quietly getting on with her carving. (I have to say that mother was still just a little cross that she wasn’t doing more to help.)

Finally the day came when the stranger decided that his ankle was now so much better that he could carry on with his journey. There was much sadness at the thought of his leaving.

Mother began to say how sorry they were that they hadn’t been able to offer him more.

“Offer me more?!” replied the stranger in surprise, his beautiful, kind eyes sparkling.

“Why each one of you has offered me so much...you are all so special and unique!

“From grandma I have learned about medicine and healing – how blessed you are to have such a wise grandmother...

“Simon and his friends have lifted my spirits with their wonderful music and I do believe that has helped me get better more quickly.....

“I have so enjoyed Father Timothy’s home grown food, and we have had fun sharing recipes and ideas.

“-it’s just been a delight to hear baby Paul’s happy laugh and watch him exploring and playing...

“And from you, dear Sarah, I have seen how wonderfully you care for your family with such love in these hard times.”

Just at that moment Ruth, who had been so quiet during the strangers stay, came forward holding a wooden walking stick with a beautifully carved goat’s head handle.

Tears of gratitude came into the stranger’s eyes as he lovingly admired her thoughtful, parting gift.

“Each one of you is so unique and special “he said, “In fact I would say that each one of you is a special gift to the world.     It doesn’t matter how much money you have – it’s what in your heart that counts. Each one of us has something only we can do, something only we can give, only we can express. Thank you dear friends. You have all given me more treasure than you could possibly imagine! You have given me the blessing of your loving hearts.

And as he left, the family all looked round at each other and smiled as they saw, as if for the first time, how truly special and unique each one of them were. And even Sarah realized that her dream of a happy and special family she could be proud of had come true – she just hadn’t appreciated it.

And so you see – it wasn’t such an ordinary day after all!

Kathryn Bingham