Maybe I ought to give her some money. Would a dollar be correct or too little or too much? This question was running in my mind and heart when Neil and I were riding the #22 bus to our Spanish class in El Centro. We were standing about in the middle of the bus. Riding the bus in Cuenca is a total kick. It’s like an Olympic Sport. You have to be in pretty good shape to attempt it. But that’s another story… As we stood awaiting the next passenger to get on the bus I saw that it was a very old woman. In Cuenca terms she looked ancient, as her hair was all white and you just don’t see much gray hair here. She was dressed in Quechuan attire. I think she was likely 4ft tall standing straight up. Somehow she was able to get up on the first high entry step of the bus and then up onto the rider aisle while pushing up a basket almost as big as herself.
A young mother, who had two children lounging on the space by the driver, immediately vacated her seat and offered it to this small woman. My heart was lurching as it has begun to do often in Cuenca. The juxtaposition of what seems to be wealth against non-wealth is ever evident. However, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder so to is the definition of wealth. From a western perspective often the definition of wealth is based on what is in someone’s bank account. For myself I know it is more than that, yet beyond the “i just want to be happy,” for me “enough money to not worry about bills and the future,” seems to still be crucial as part of my own definition.
As soon as the beautiful little woman was seating herself on the bus I had already had a million heart strings pulled inside of me. I wanted to wrap her in a giant blanket of care and comfort as my mind was making up amazing stories of how difficult her life was probably like. None of these stories were based on truth. Instead, all were based on my perception of “wealth.” I began to wonder if I ought to slide a dollar to her on my way off of the bus. Was that enough or would she think it too much? Would she be offended by my offer? As I considered this dilemma that I had created in myself, I heard a voice inside of me say, “Why are you giving me this dollar? Because I’m old?” Instantly I knew it was only my own insecurity within myself that was clouding what I was seeing about this powerful light that was this small woman.
And then a magical thing happened. The older woman reached into one of her baskets, that had appeared empty from where I was standing, and she handed a small fruit, the size of a lime, to the gracious mother who had given up her seat. This gesture rang in my ears and heart and brought tears to my eyes. This woman who I had perceived as needing assistance showed me with such grace, that she clearly lives faithfully from unlimited resources, from a reality that her life basket is always full. I’m grateful for that powerful life lesson she taught me on my way to Spanish class.