Disaster relief comes in all shapes and sizes.
“Roses for the ladies?”
An older woman, slightly hunched over from decades of a difficult life, holds an armful of roses. My wife and I, along with another couple, are visiting one of only a handful of restaurants surviving a recent hurricane’s visit to a small Mexican fishing village.
“Roses for the ladies,” she repeats in very broken language.
My friend and I look at each other a bit confused. Landing on this patch of coastal sand only a few hours before, our natural reservations to being approached by strangers remains securely in place.
The older lady smiles again and then gestures to table where another couple is sitting sharing dinner. She then reaches into her basket and places a young red rose in front of my wife. Walking around my wife, she repeats the same gesture to my friend’s wife.
“From the man,” she says, again struggling to communicate outside of her limited range of the English vocabulary.
Turning around I see a man in a white shirt sitting at a nearby table. Beside him sits a woman, a small plate, and two glasses of red wine. They are relaxed, laughing.
“Excuse me, “ I say, feeling odd interrupting their dinner. “Did you just buy roses for our wives?”
He pauses and turns towards me.
“Well, actually I bought them for all the ladies in the restaurant.”
His accent is invisible to me – as if he lived next door to me over a thousand miles away.
The woman smiles, gently bows, and turns to move to another table.
My new friend and I visit for a few moments. Life, as those of us who are visiting easily recognize, is extremely difficult here as the local community is attempting to put itself back together. Think of the children’s story Humpty Dumpty – only with thousands of human faces and not knowing where to begin.
The woman with the roses moves to yet another table – leaving another puzzled couple behind.
The man next to me purchased all the roses – allowing the woman to sell her entire inventory for the night. He then asked her to go around the restaurant and give a free rose to each and every woman in the restaurant. With one action, he’s relieved her of the burden of a long night’s task of selling roses to strangers and helped make her life – at least for this night – a little less burdensome.
In times of disasters we tend to forget how we as individuals can play a generous role in helping make the world a better place for those displaced. While we are all familiar with government agencies flying in supplies, making speeches, and pointing fingers, this man at the table next to me is directly impacting the life of a woman who may not be on the radar of any government entity. His gesture genuinely moves me.
I watch as the woman makes her way to yet another table, repeating the same unfamiliar message. Again, I see her nod and gesture towards my new friend. Suddenly, I am filled with the realization that I’ve just experienced a beautiful lesson in life –the lesson that we can all make a difference in the life of others if only we keep our eyes open to the opportunities before us.
– 30 –