Blog post by Rose M, a Kindness Investor from Forest Park, IL.
Hi, my name is Rose and I am this week’s Kindness Investor. I am underemployed this year. However, I had an opportunity to take a cruise recently to the British Virgin Islands as a Teaching Assistant to Donna Eden, by whom I am trained as an Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner. So my first four opportunities to give away ten dollars a day began on the cruise.
I started my week of giving early here on the island of Tortola. I spent the morning on a nature hike in the Sage Mountain National Park. Then we went to some touristy beach the name of which I do not recall. No, it was Cane Something. Well, anyway. It has a centuries old rum distillery on it that is still operating. Samples were wasted on me since I don’t drink, but the distillery itself was fascinating and beautiful to photograph.
We had about an hour on the beach which was a bit crowded. The pelicans here are to the locals what seagulls are to American beach-goers. No, they don’t beg from you, but they are very tolerant of people and float in the water very close to shore. I was lucky enough to get a shot of one flying up into the air. However, I couldn’t get a reverse shot of any diving into the water to grab a fish. It was fun watching them swallow their meals. Just like in the cartoons, you can see the little lumps wiggling down their pouchy gullets.
When we finally got back to the area near the boat, I did some shopping. There were two areas which sold “local crafts.” The first area sold mostly cheap junk. I didn’t even bother looking for anything here. I just made off for the other area. It was very close to the same. However, I found one gem there. An artist who is a fourth generation Tortolan had a little hut full of his artwork. His ancestors came from West Africa, and art has been in their blood. His dad, he said, was also a painter like him. “But, when my parents divorced, I didn’t divorce the tradition. So I kept on painting.”
I bought a small painting of slaves cutting sugar cane which touched me deeply with its sense of peace despite hardship. Then, upon his recommendation, I headed down the street to Bamboushay, a coffee shop which also sold locally made pottery.
When I walked in there was an Asian woman—very pregnant—typing on her laptop, a Caucasian woman with long blonde hair I pegged for an ex-pat, and a beautiful slender black woman behind the counter. A small array of cookies and muffins was on display, and—much to my relief—a long list of coffee specialties were available.
At first I ordered a large decaf iced latte. Then I spied Chai latte on the board. So I said, “Wait a sec, how’s your Chai tea? Is it really, really good?”
I asked that because I don’t think Starbuck’s Chai is all that good, and I wanted a really good one. She cut a smirky glance at her ex-Pat friend that looked just a little eye roll-ish, if you know what I mean. Then, without looking at me, she said, “Yes, it’s really, really good.” Her friend giggled a wry giggle. The whole encounter made me feel a bit self-conscious, even though I knew I’d set myself up for it. What was she going to say, after all? “No, we make lousy Chai?”
“Well, I’ll take your word for it,” I said. “I’ll take a large.”
Trying to adopt a sweeter attitude, she asked me to wait a few moments while she finished her friend’s order. But I sensed she was feeling irritated and maybe sad. I wondered if it was because she took me for a rich, white American girl out Island-hopping. I wanted to protest my innocence, but what was the point? In comparison to her world, I was exactly that.
Wandering around the shop I took the time to admire the local pottery. Some of it was exquisite. I would have bought something if it wasn’t such a fragile souvenir. Eventually she finished making my chai. Perhaps feeling a little bit of a need to please, I asked if the cookies and muffins in the case were fresh, and where did they come from.
“They are home-made,” she replied (in a lovely, soft BVI accent), adding, “I make them in my home.”
Well, I was sold. So I also bought a small, whole wheat, carrot muffin. The total bill was $6.95. I handed her a twenty. She started to make change when it hit me. I could begin my week of giving with her! Why not?
She handed me three dollars, a nickel and a ten. I said thank you, and then I dove right in. My explanation of the project was a little bumbling as I wasn’t prepared in the least. I wish you could have seen the look on her face when I first told her I wanted to give her ten dollars, no strings attached. It was a look of pure surprise. Who was this weird stranger offering her money for nothing? In fact, at first she thought I was describing a sort of “chain letter.” I would give her ten dollars, and then she would be required to find seven other people to give ten dollars. No wonder her look of surprise quickly changed to one of wariness.
I explained it again. By that time a worker had come out from the back to find out what was going on. They both got the gist of it finally. I wished the worker had been out there earlier because I would have offered both of them $5, rather than $10 to just one of them. It took her a few minutes to make up her mind, but she finally agreed and I handed her the ten.
The smiles that broke out on our faces at that moment were like two simultaneous sunrises peeking over the Caribbean horizon.
She told me her name was Susan (pronounced Suzanne) R. She wasn’t the owner of the coffee shop, but its manager—and apparently its baker (the muffin was delicious, by the way). When I asked her what she would do with the money, she hesitated for a long moment. I sensed she was expected to do something altruistic with it. So I offered, “Listen, you can drink a bottle of $10 rum with it if you want.” That got a laugh from both of them.
Finally she said she thought she might by some all-natural juice for her daughter, Enya. I asked if she was named for the singer, and she said yes. This was another small moment of connection for us as Enya is one of my husband John’s all-time favorite musicians. I told her so, and we both agreed it was a shame she hadn’t put out anything new lately.
We chatted for a few minutes more. Susan told me Enya is five years old and is in the First Level of school. I didn’t know what that meant, so she explained to me it would be analogous to our kindergarten. Then she wanted to know if it would be possible for her to do this as well. Only, she thought it would have to be for less than ten a day. She couldn’t afford that much. I was deeply touched by that. I could see she had a big heart, and it would be in her nature to want to give more than receive.
It also brought to mind one of my favorite sayings: God cannot be outdone in generosity, and it occurred to me I had already received much more than I had just given.
Finally, although she had protested earlier, she allowed me to take a picture of her. I thought it caught something breathtaking about her, something I noticed earlier despite her slightly churlish mood. It was a defiance and pride that made me like her instantly. If I lived in Tortola, I would have to have known her better. I think she’d make an inspiring friend.
Just about then an older couple came in, presumably looking to escape the heat as I had earlier. I made my goodbyes quickly, making sure to leave the website address, my name and email. At the door I turned and looked over my shoulder for one more glance. Her mood was entirely different from when I had entered twenty minutes earlier. It suddenly dawned on me then the real gift was not the ten dollar bill.
Bambooshay is a festive Virgin Islands dance performed to invoke good luck. I hoped she would remember this day as one in which good luck danced her way.