My comment to our hostess was meant as a simple, innocent compliment. “I like your earrings; they match your blue shirt perfectly.” The next thing I knew she pulled the fused glass blue and gold earrings out of her ear lobes and tucked them in my hands, closing my fingers around them into a fist. “A gift,” she said, “they match your shirt, too.”
To say I was taken aback by her spontaneous, gracious gesture is an understatement. Yet, I felt more than a twinge of guilt realizing I would not be so quick to make the same selfless offer as this Salvadoran who has much less than I in terms of possessions.
That very same afternoon allowed me an opportunity to change all that. Earlier in the week a watercolor artist also gifted us unexpectedly with a set of prints she had painted years ago. One of them was of a famous Salvadoran poet’s home. She and he lived in the same village.
Coincidentally this particular poet served as the inspiration for a famous composer we were scheduled to interview this afternoon. I took the print of his house along to show the composer, thinking it would serve as a springboard for conversation about how this poet inspired him to compose music. He became so excited and animated in his detailed response, I too made an immediate decision. “A gift for you,” I announced proudly. “This print will obviously mean far more to you than to me.” After initially objecting knowing the story of it, he was pleased at my insistence that he keep it.
I believe our composer will treasure the print of his poet’s home as much as I treasure my earrings which I wear as I write this.
More important than the items themselves, we will cherish the spirit in which each was given spontaneously and joyfully received.