Blog post by Rose M, a Kindness Investor from Forest Park, IL.
Today I was in Antigua. I began the day with a zipline tour. We had to drive inland for a half hour to reach our destination—the rainforest. Our taxi driver introduced himself as Spice Man. He was a big man with a good sense of humor. He gave us a talking tour all the way there and back telling us many things about his island. But I was mostly fascinated by the small, colorful houses we passed, many in a state of extreme disrepair, which began to appear as soon as we left the posh tourist harbor area. This was the real Antigua.
The zipline experience was fun. It felt very settling to be among all those trees after more than four days at sea. The way it works is that you are strapped into a harness similar to what you wear when you parachute. Then you are hooked with big metal hooks to cable wires that are strung between a series of trees. Each tree has a platform built around it and a certified zipliner (although I don’t know what that means exactly; I was helped by one of these zipliners and she had acrylic nails that had to be two inches long) who makes sure you don’t fall off the platform into the forest below before sending you on to the next platform.
We ziplined through twelve different stations down to the bottom of the forest. That was the grueling part because we then had to climb many, many steps back to the top. There we were able to tip our certified zipliners, as well as buy a t-shirt or two.
Spice Man brought us back to the harbor. I asked him if he could help me find some Cuban cigars. My husband had asked me to smuggle some back into the country with me. Spice Man took me to a liquor store owned by a friend who then directed us to another location. This was a bonafide cigar store. I was able to find John some Cuhios, Romeo y Julieta and a few others.
By then it was getting late and I was starting to run out of time. I decided to run back to the ship and drop off the cigars, then come back to the edge of the harbor and enjoy one last coffee before leaving. I wasn’t certain whether or not I would give away $10 today. But as I walked towards the coffee shop I was moved by the site of a young girl in her school uniform leaning listlessly against a post, holding handmade jewelry in her hand. Her mother was busily opening a suitcase, trying to get passersby interested in buying the trinkets. I took a candid shot of them. Then I decided I wanted to give that ten to them.
I began by asking to look at their jewelry. While I browsed I asked the girl her name. Euresha she replied before explaining that she was eleven years old and in grade six. I couldn’t imagine what her life must be like, having to go to school all day and then work selling jewelry to help her family survive. The mother told me her name was Brenda. I found out she was the mother of ten, and Euresha was the youngest. I was browsing very slowly, trying to work up my nerve to offer the ten. Brenda didn’t take my hesitation as a good sign. She started bargaining with me, lowering her prices more and more the longer I looked.
Then, wouldn’t you know it, it started to rain. We moved under the awning of the coffee shop and sat down opposite a couple who were also on my cruise. I could tell Brenda was getting antsy to move on, and worried I wouldn’t buy anything at all. Finally I settled on a matching abalone necklace and bracelet. I said, “Brenda, I’d like to buy this bracelet and necklace. What would it cost?”
“Bracelet is five, necklace is twenty. But I give you both for $20.”
“Well, I’d be happy to pay you twenty for them, but would you be insulted if I also gave you ten dollars for no reason at all?”
You should have seen the look on her face. It was like she’d won the lottery. But she didn’t miss a beat. Immediately she responded, “Give it to my daughter. She needs it for her science project.”
I said, “Oh that’s great, Brenda! I’ll give it to you, and you can give it to your daughter. Because I was going to ask you what you were going to do with it, and now I know.” Then I went on to explain about the Year of Giving. Frankly, I don’t think Brenda cared. That ten dollars was manna from heaven, and the unexpected boon was all that mattered.
Meanwhile Euresha was grinning from ear to ear. I doubt she’d had many experiences like this of sheer good luck. I asked her to tell me about her science project. She said she is writing a paper on the Fallow Deer, which is an endangered species. Her mom explained she needed the money to pay for some computer fees so she could type up the project. She then went on to boast about her daughter, saying she’d be sitting for an exam next year that would allow her to go on to the next level of school. “I know she will do very, very well,” she proclaimed proudly. Euresha told me she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up.
Euresha wrote down her address for me, and we all admired her lovely cursive handwriting. The couple at the table with us who had witnessed this whole exchange asked me if this was part of a Christian ministry. I explained to them about the Year of Giving website and suggested they check it out. Then I took a picture of Euresha and Brenda, smiling broadly and looking hopeful, the worry and strain wiped away for a moment.
The rain had let up a little and now it really was time for me to get back on the boat. I dashed between the drops, imagining the story Euresha and Brenda would have to tell the family that night. It gave me such a good feeling, I thought, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stop this after seven days!”