It was 9 PM on a wednesday evening as I walked with my wife Anne along a darkened wharf in Cabo, Mexico. A small, solitary figure approached us, and to my surprise it was a cute little girl whose name we discovered was Jennifer. She was holding a box of trinkets, little animals, the kind sold in every shop and street corner in Mexico. Normally I politely beg off on paying any attention to street hustlers. But it was different with Jennifer.
I have worked with kids my whole life, as a Behavioral Pediatrician, at my retreats and summer camps, in my school programs. I am with kids most days of my life, and I love it. For some reason, this little girl touched me in a special way. She spoke almost no english, and I no spanish, but we connected with our smiles.
I bought a butterfly from her, giving her 5 times her price. Her face lit up with a precious smile immediately. And Anne and I walked on. Two nights later, around the same time and spot, we met up with Jennifer again. She recognized us, and we tried to speak with each other for a short while. I bought a small penguin from her this time, and paid her with a huge profit again. She let Anne take my picture with her, as you see in this blog, I gave her a hug, and we walked on to eat dinner.
Ah hour later, as we were walking to our car, we saw Jennifer sitting with her mom on some steps, each licking a towering chocolate ice cream cone. I imagined that kind of treat doesn’t come her way very often. They both waved to us, and as we strolled past them I felt a twinge of both sadness and joy. Sad because 9 year old girls shouldn’t have to work the streets until 10 o’clock each night, and joy because despite her situation in life, Jennifer maintained her sense of innocence and happiness. I felt it in her smile.
This holiday season, appreciate everything in your life: people, possessions, experiences, everything, large and small. It’s the least we can do for kids like Jennifer.