We come to gawk at the scenery with our heads strained back, admiring the sunset setting along what looks to be the end of the ocean. We run our diamond-laced fingers along the intricate wood carvings and the jewelry made from seashells, gossiping about the talent and the beauty lain before us.
“Twenty dollars,” speaks a soft, timid voice.
“No, that’s okay, but thank you,” we say robotically.
“Fifteen dollars,” speaks the timid woman once again. She looks up from her upcoming work of art: a change purse made out of Spearmint gum wrappers. Desperation, and maybe a hint of hurt, is piercing through her eyes into ours.
“No, I think I’ll pass. Thank you, though.” Never in my life has turning down a salesman been so hard. After a weak smile to her, a nervous bite of the lip, and an awkward shuffling of my feet, I turned to leave. The woman spoke no more.
A rustling came from behind a blatantly homemade curtain made of intricate needlework and time. Little pattering came across the cheap flooring that had been simply laid on top of the dirt, and a squeaky but confident voice arose out of the quiet. “I made bracelets!”
I turned around to see a little boy appearing to be five years old. His shorts were filthy and his bare chest had a dusting of dirt over it. He was holding up a handful of colorful bracelets for me to look at, and I smiled at his innocence. “They’re pretty,” I said sweetly, grazing my fingertips across the colorful knots his little hands had made.
He picked out a bright pink and blue one, bent down, and began wrapping it around my ankle. His mother stood up in protest, but I raised my hand for her to sit. She smiled shyly and returned to her crafts. “Three dollars,” he spoke bluntly, but kindly. His deep brown eyes glittered in the sunbeam radiating through the curtains, and his smile looked so hopeful.
I looked at his mother and tears pooled in her eyes.
I looked back to the little boy, and he was smiling up at me, still hoping I’d buy the bracelet.
If light bulbs actually appeared above our heads when we realized something, I’m sure I would’ve had a Christmas tree floating above me. What if the three dollars meant dinner for him? What if the twenty dollars his trying mother asked for her work meant electricity for her home or shoes for her son?
Three dollars were in that boy’s hands before I realized I even reached into my purse. The glow of his face was priceless as he ran to his mother with the money. He ran out of the shack with a basket of little candies, and he began making little sales down the streets. I giggled to myself at his overwhelming happiness.
“Here,” I spoke softly with forty dollars in my palm, handing them over to the mother. “I want you to have this.”
The tears that had already pooled in her eyes began making trails down her cheeks. She took the money with a shaky hand, kissed it, and thanked me endlessly. I smiled at the gratitude and left with my head held high.
It’s true that you never know how good you have it until you see someone else have it worse. Forty dollars is my tank of gas…but their forty dollars could be their livelihood.
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