Blog post by Rose M, a Kindness Investor from Forest Park, IL.
I found my teens today on St. Kitts! Our ship arrived around 11am and we disembarked an hour later. I didn’t have an excursion today so I ended up taking a so-so tour of the island by taxi, which ended at Frigate Bay, a rock black sand beach. I took a half-hearted dip and dried out at the bar where I had a Ting (similar to Seven Up) and a chicken roti.
I was served by an ex-pat who had left America with her husband six years ago. She was originally from New York. She and her husband lived on a boat for three years. Then they decided to settle on St. Kitts, but she doesn’t think they’ll stay there forever. She’s written a book about their adventures which is supposed to be published by McGraw Hill in May of 2012. You never know who you’re going to meet, do you?!
She said St. Kitts was very expensive, and several times referred to financial worries. Her husband was working construction on a nearby hotel, which afforded him health insurance. But she had none. She seemed like a good person to give ten dollars. So I explained the whole deal to her, and she happily accepted the ten dollars. Just then a few people came up to buy some beers. While they were finishing their order, it dawned on me I had not left myself enough money to get a taxi back to the ship!
Good grief, the embarrassment! Here I am a Year of Giving Ambassador and I had to ask for my money back! She was good natured about it, though, and as it turned out it seemed to be for the best.
When I got back to port I hoofed it on to the boat, unloaded my stuff and grabbed a ten from the safe in our room. Then I hoofed it back out to the port’s shopping plaza. Someone walked by with a huge waffle bowl of ice cream. I asked where she got it and she pointed down a certain street. I walked in that direction when suddenly, just up ahead, I spied five teenagers walking away from me. Perfect!
They seemed relaxed as they chatted and ambled on some distance ahead of me, so I increased my pace to catch up with them.
“Excuse me,” I blurted to their backs, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
They all turned to look at me with surprise. They were willing to listen as I explained to them my mission. When I’d finished, I said I could give one of them the ten, if they wanted, or I could split it five ways. They were fine with receiving the money split five ways.
One reason I was interested in giving to teenagers is that teens are still so idealistic and inspired. I thought for sure they would be supportive of the Year of Giving philosophy. Several of them commented something along the lines that what I was doing should happen more often. So I think I was on the mark, and made sure to write down the website address for them.
I used my slightly battered digital camera to briefly film each one of them. It was a lot of fun playing junior documentarian. Unfortunately when I played it back later I couldn’t understand much of what they said because background noises garbled their speech. So what you’re about to read is mostly true, some part best guess and one, and a bit pure invention.
This much is true. All five of them are sixteen. They all belong to the fifth form, which I took to be roughly analogous to our senior high. They were all excited to be graduating to sixth form in two months which would allow them to move on to college or other goals. The mix was three boys and two girls, and they all seemed to be good friends. They were excited because their school had won the St. Kitts interschool championship for sports. Tomorrow would be a school holiday to celebrate and there would be a “motorcade,” as one boy described it, “with lots of cars honking and people cheering.”
I didn’t get this boy’s name. However, I did find out he is a cheerleader and the school mascot. The mascot is a cheeto…a large, orange cheeto. He’s a tall, handsome boy so I’m sure he makes a very dignified cheeto. The others in the group described him as a “natural born salesmen” and deferred to him as the leader of the group. He responded modestly to their praise, but I could tell he was an ambitious young man. He told me he hoped to major in electrical engineering, and was planning on saving his two dollar jackpot for the time being. Since school is free in St. Kitts, he won’t need to save it to pay off a hefty education debt, thank goodness!
Chez, whose name I did get correctly, wants to major in IT. I assured him that was a good choice because it was lucrative. He agreed with a big smile. He planned on buying a soda with his two dollars “because it’s hot!” He’s a practical sort, I think.
Hasia (I think that’s his name but not certain) is going to major in economics. He seemed the most excited about getting the money, and was clearly the spiritual one of the group. When I started to hand out the money he said, “We have received a blessing from God!” Later, when I gathered them as a group to take a picture, he said, “We should all be smiling because God has given us a gift! We should have a big smile on our faces!” He’s also the one who suggested they all shout “Ten Dollars!” when I snapped the photo, a variation on saying “Cheese.” He planned on saving his windfall. I have a hunch he might give it to his church or a charity. Just a hunch.
Tahira, the smaller of the two girls, was the only one of the group who didn’t have plans to go onto college. Well, that may be true of Tamika too. She was too shy to be interviewed. We all decided as a group she was speechless with joy over the two dollar boon. Tahira, however, wants to get a job after school. She’s interested in being a pilot because she likes to travel and would like to go to Africa. Another career possibility is the spy business. She sees them on TV sit-drams and thinks their lives look very exciting. She didn’t know yet what she wanted to do with her double sawbucks. She’s the imaginative one of the group, so I suspect she needed time to ponder the many possibilities available to her.
I asked them how it felt to receive money from a stranger for no reason at all. They all thought it was “weird,” a word I found to be just about right, since the root of the word comes from the word “wyrd,” which means “fate” or “destiny.” And you never know what chance encounter may change your fate or destiny.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they would try to change someone’s fate or destiny for the better through the Year of Giving, or in some other way. If I could roll these five bright kids into one, I bet I would come up with an ambitious, practical kid full of faith, hope, gratitude and imagination. This kind soul would be speechless with joy at the way life can surprise you with grace. What kid like that wouldn’t go out of his or her way to make someone else’s day a little brighter?
This kid would be like my cruise-mate Carol who a few minutes later treated me to a delicious waffle bowl of sour soup ice-cream. I told her I’d pay her back on the ship, to which she replied, “No worries. I’m good.”
They would also be like Chuck, a man on my cruise whom I’d never met before, who a half hour later saw that I didn’t have the money I needed to buy the perfect souvenir for my mother which had finally manifested at the last possible second—a coconut shell carved into the shape of a pig with ears that actually moved (no accounting for taste)— and bought it for me.
They might be like the tall, lanky fellow with waist-length dreadlocks who heaped adorable monkeys on my shoulders as I raced back to the ship moments before it was leaving and when I told him, “I’m so sorry! I’ve absolutely no cash left on me,” insisted on taking a few pictures anyway, even though he knew with the end of the cruising season next week his opportunities to make money were about to dwindle sharply.
And I know they would be like Hasia, who tossed a “God bless you” over his shoulder to me in a lovely West Indies lilt as we parted ways. And God—who is not outdone in generosity—did.