I had a letter from our sponsor child in Guatemala last week: a page of Spanish brimming with childish warmth and gratitude. Where do we lose all that? At what point do we grow out of all that heart-full, joyful exuberance? I want it back.
He, who lives so far from me on the slopes of a distant mountain in a place I can barely imagine, he wrote, simply, of small things.
He wrote of riding his bike and playing football and going to school. And he wrote to thank me for a gift of money, listing the things his family bought with it: ‘a jar, three plates, a knife, other two plates, two cups, a big container and three glasses’.
That list arrested me. What would I, with my disposable income, buy with £20? My cupboard brims full: mugs, crockery, patterned dishes that ‘just made me smile’, all manner of kitchen gadgets and appliances. If I had £20, I would likely get a manicure or a book to add to the pile or another top to cram into my wardrobe.
Suddenly, reading his list, the idea that income could be ‘disposable’ when people are starving and dying and destitute and homeless seemed a little grotesque.
I realised just how much I take for granted.
More than that, I realised again how much those small things – the things like riding bikes and playing football – matter, how much they make us who we are, how much they fill our hearts. I realised how very human they are, and universal. The small things connect us.
My small things are not so different from his. This week, I’ve been loving walks by the river, the hot sun on my face, friends in our living room. There’s been pizza and magazines and eating outside and bird-spotting. And I’ve been reminding myself, every day, of the child’s gratitude for each and every cup and plate.