Water Please?


Faviole looks up at me with her big chestnut eyes. “¿Quiere usted un poco de agua?”

I smile sympathetically, “No comprendo . . . lo siento,” while gesturing to tell her that I am sorry, but I don’t understand her.

She laughs, used to this response, and mimes for me to come with her. At this, I follow my new Honduran friend across the field — my pasty-white, 17-year-old legs trying to keep up with her experienced seven-year-old ones.

We cross the orange clay soccer field and come upon a dirt hut. Faviole smiles at me, and shouts something in Spanish to the lady inside the hut. The woman emerges from the hut with a glass of water in hand, and offers it to us. This simple gesture, requesting a glass of water from a barely known neighbour, is commonplace to Faviole. Yet to me, a product of western culture, it is a gesture of surprise.

The glass of water, for me, has become a metaphor of the Honduran attitude. It illustrates the sense of community and simple happiness that these people possess. When I first arrived, the poor clay huts, the hungry barefoot children and the dilapidated rusty vehicles shocked me. I had trouble seeing around the poverty.

However, after spending mere hours in the presence of the people, I began to feel the presence of a vibrant community spirit that we in North America sometimes forget about. The people are friendly and wave a genuine hello to complete strangers while passing by in their old pickups. The children are free and dash wherever their feet happen to take them. The workers are relaxed and take their time finishing their jobs. It is a community where happiness comes from the simple things in life. For this, I believe we cousins of the north have a thing or two to learn.

And learn we can from this impoverished community. The Honduran people, particularly the children, have a lot to teach us about simple happiness. Their neighbourhoods are slums with no running water, yet they run laughing through the streets playing tag. Their walk home from school takes more than an hour, yet they still find the enthusiasm to embrace learning each morning. Their meals sometimes come only once a day, yet they find it in themselves to share with another hungry friend. It is this will to live and be simply happy that I admire.

I find it sad that we have lost this simple happiness in our western culture. We do not let our children run through the neighbourhoods for fear of kidnappers or pedophiles. We groan and moan about waking up for school every morning because we don’t realize the privilege of having accessible education. We refrain from asking our neighbours for a glass of water when we are thirsty, merely due to the sad fact that we don’t know them.

Now, I am not saying that we should all let go of the material wealth we enjoy, that we should all move and live in clay huts and that we should all barge into our neighbour’s house asking for a glass of water, because that is not the point. I am also not saying that Hondurans have a carefree easy life, for this is definitely not true. What I am saying is that we should stop and think before we begin to feel pity for these people. We need to re-evaluate what is important to us and think about how fortunate we really are. We ought to adopt the ”glass of water” attitude.

ALISON GOULDEN

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