This I believe, it does not matter how we might look on the outside, what our cultural or educational background might be or where do we live; what’s important are the values and virtues that we can share and teach others, and the joy that our stories will bring to someone’s life when shared with them. I believe that we come across many challenges and many people throughout our lives to accomplish a mission and learn from them. I remember this incredible little old lady that was so kind and generous to everyone, she did not have much to give, but the little she had, she always shared with others, and she taught me that what’s important is not how much you give, but what you have and share with others.
As I was growing up, I used to run errands for my mom to one of the many central markets in Mexico City and I would stop and talk to the local vendors outside of the market. These vendors set up their stands outside on the sidewalk and put their merchandise on tables or on top of a cloth and lay it on the floor.
They sold just about anything, from fresh produce, all kinds of herbs, dried fruits, some prepared food items, men and women’s clothes, shoes, beauty products and lots and lots of old and used items. Some of these vendors were of indigenous origin, uneducated, old and with some kind of handicap; others were from a very poor background and did not fit the typical prototype of society.
Of course, they got unusual looks and stares from people that didn’t know these poor souls, trying to make a living and having a hard time in life. One of these people was a little old lady named Antonia.
Antonia was always dressed in old, stained, and worn out clothes, almost blind in both eyes and toothless with hair that resembled a bird’s nest. But there she was, always smiling at everyone and talking to anyone that would listen while she was trying to sell some of her merchandise.
That’s when I met her and every time I stopped by her stand she always gave me some free candy or fruits and vegetables she was selling, and many times was eating and offered to share her food with me.
On one occasion, as I was sitting on the floor next to her stand eating some food she had shared with me, my mom came looking for me, worried to death because I had taken too long on an errand. When she saw me there, with Antonia sitting next to me, she went hysterical and started screaming at Antonia, asking her, what are you feeding to my daughter? Stay away from her! Don’t touch her!
Antonia was so shocked, she covered her face and went speechless; at this point I realized that my mom did not approve of my friendship with the poor old street vendor and that’s when I decided I had to explain to my mom why was this little old lady so special and such a good friend to me.
I’ve told my mom, this unique, poor old woman, is one of the most compassionate, kind, generous and wonderful people I have ever come across, and she treats everyone with respect, just the way she has always treated me. My mom felt so embarrassed about her over reacting, that she walked away in shame.
To date I still remember this little old lady and many of the wonderful street vendors that I used to hang out with and talk with. To me these experiences are very meaningful and I’ll always treasure their stories and the times I’ve spent with them, right there, outside of the central market on the streets of Mexico City.
It’s important to recognize that the richness of their culture, their beliefs, and the way they dressed and talked, the foods they ate, the many stories they shared with me, are now part of my life and it taught me to appreciate the diversity of someone’s cultural background and to respect it as well.
I believe, we meet so many different kinds of people every day and we don’t take the time to communicate with them, to listen to them, or get to know them better. I believe; that we’re missing the chance to learn and discover about other people’s cultural richness.
Antonia, a poor old and sick street vendor; brought me and my mom, wisdom and love. She shared what little she had and taught me to always be kind to others no matter how or where we are. We don’t know the problems or hardships people might be experiencing in their lives at the time, and we are not aware of their needs also. When we are able to recognize the kindness and generosity that someone shares with us, and learn from it, that is a mission accomplished.
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