Several weeks ago, I had an experience that opened my eyes to both sides of want and need and giving and sharing. It helped put my own experiences in a whole new perspective.
I heard the bell ring at my gate. I opened the door and there stood a young Mexican girl, maybe ten or eleven. She looked me straight in the eye and said in
Spanish and some English, "My family is hungry; we need food." SHE needed food. My heart dropped. It was a statement not a request. I looked at her as she stood there, in the bright sunlight, drab, dull, and dusty. No snapping, laughing eyes here. No. There was an unmistakable un-childlike dignity about her standing there, still, straight, gazing directly at me. No hunching shoulders, no hanging head, no scuffing toes in the dirt. No shame. She simply was asking what must be done. The responsibility had somehow fallen on her slight shoulders, "probably because she had a handful of English," I thought shamefully. In my halting, pathetic Spanish, I told her to wait. I hurried inside to my well-stocked pantry, and put a bag of rice and a couple bags of beans into a pastel bolsa [bag].
I realized as I was doing this, that my heart had lifted, that there was a gladness in my actions. "I can help her, only a little bit, but... It's not enough to change things but still it feels good knowing that her belly will be full for a few days."
I return with the bag of food, worrying that it will be too heavy for her, wondering how far she has to carry it. She takes the bag meeting my eyes, then, casting them down, she whispers, "Gracias." I smile gently at her, wishing I could do more. She makes no move to leave, and then, perhaps because she thinks I am kind, she asks, "Agua, por favor?"
"Oh yes, of course," I say in English, then catch myself and say, "Un momento." I return to my kitchen kicking myself for not thinking of it myself. I prepare a cup of water as I would for a guest at my house. Ice cold, pure water, fresh squeezed lime but in a plastic cup so she can take it with her. She waits patiently as I knew she would. She is used to waiting, wanting, needing. As I pass her the cup, she looks at it and then at me. At last, a slight smile plays at her lips. Her eyes hold mine; there is a glimmer of more than thanks. It is a moment, one heart touching another. Not a hand out. Not a helping hand, only a glass of water that you would give to anyone who came to your house.
This moment taught me something about asking for and receiving graciously. If others were not in need, there would not be the satisfaction of giving.