A Friend, Indeed

Ripple_Effect_Head_Shot“I will need to take you to every house in the village!”my daughter Gale had declared when we arrived at her small vereda in Colombia, a two hour sweaty hike from the nearest sister enclave. That had sounded like a reasonable but undoable request even before we arrived. It was not an end of soccer game line of hand slapping “good game, good game, good game.”Each meeting was personal.

The second day we headed up the hill to the farm in the farthest upper left hand corner. Gale peered through the tiny window into the dimly lit interior. “Allo?”she called out. We headed around to the side. Jesusa greeted us, and welcomed us inside the gate. She was grinding corn in a waist high pestle to feed the donkey. “He is not eating. See how swollen he is here?”She delivers a firm punch to the animal’s lower left neck.”This is not good.”She was clearly worried. “Come inside.”We walked through the densely grown yard filled with low bushes, flowers, parts of equipment and into a small kitchen area with a very low ceiling.

In the back was a wood burning stove. She shooed two tiny cats off an upturned log that made a bench and offered us seats as she retrieved some wood to stoke the fire. The hard packed dirt floor was swept clean, and Jesusa pointed to a small side table with a shelf underneath. “See the duck and the chicken asleep there?”Charmed, I had not even noticed them!

She took eggs and was busy by the stove as we chatted. How did I like it here? What are we doing? Where is my husband? I labored through my responses, coaxing my high school Spanish into the present. Gale allowed me to wade through, interrupting only when I came out with French, which I frustratingly retrieved more easily, as I had lived there for six months in college.

As if by magic she turned around holding two bowls of soup made with what looked like oversize kidney beans, chunks of banana, with a cooked egg on top. I was not expecting a meal. “Aye, muchas, muchas gracias!”I uttered before tucking into it.

Jesusa turns to look me directly in the eye. Her manner and tone convey absolute conviction as she states, “You do us great honor by visiting us here.”The tears that spring up instantly hinder my ability to form words. “Oh, Jesusa. The honor is mine. Thank you so much. You are so generous.”I am stammering, searching for the right words, not easy in any language.

As I stutter she hands us chunks of bread. This stymies my attempts at formulating more coherent thoughts and “Gracias, ortra vez gracias”is as eloquent as I can manage. It is the depth of her sincerity that so moves me, and our connection is unmistakeable. There is a great deal unspoken, but we both know that we have young adult daughters. Without words, she has told me that she appreciates the work my daughter is doing in the village, which helps ensure the safety of the people there, and she appreciates that I have traveled to visit. She feels my respect for her, for what she is doing.

Perhaps I am taking some license in my assumption, but it is because I cannot understand all the words that the feeling is conveyed even more strongly.

As we get ready to leave she asks when I am going to return. Before coming I had not even entertained this notion but I am now wondering the same thing. She is not asking out of politeness. She really wants to know. I can only tell her that I have no plans at the moment, but I know that if and when I come back, I have a friend to welcome me.


By: Meg Stafford

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