When traveling we often look for how things are different because that interests us. But, when we find that things are the same, this is when it becomes fascinating.
For when we find sameness, it exists in an environment that is so completely different from what we know, what we’re comfortable with, what we assume to be true and, oftentimes, what we assume to be ours.
Traveling for several months throughout the Windwards, visiting 11 islands spread across four countries, that is what we have seen: the universal truth in how people live. They want to live with Dignity, and to be treated with Respect, and to be part of a Community, and to have a Family.
Rashon was the cutest little kid, maybe 7 or 8, full of life and energy and a sparkle in his eyes, but alas quiet and shy and a bit uncertain. Barefoot in the sand, he was closely attached to our waitress at this outdoor beach bbq on an uninhabited island in the Tobago Cays Marine Park. Back and forth they both went to the open air kitchen – grilled lobster, marlin, veggie rice, potatoes, fried plantains and more.
We asked our waitress if Rashon was her child. No, he’s my little friend, we like each other a lot, his mother isn’t really able to take care of him, he’s happier when he’s here on the island with Free Willy (the owner of the bbq tent) and me. They looked at each other with the warmest, most affectionate smiles.
Dinner over, plates being cleared, Rashon comes racing up, eager to help. It was a memorable moment, a short moment, but one that we all observed. As our waitress handed a plate to Rashon, he took it, but she paused, reaching back to him, and ever so thoughtfully, carefully, and gently, she took his little hands in hers, repositioned his fingers and wrists, and simply smiled at him. He looked up at her. Nothing said, but love was spoken.
The smallest action, helping a child to find a better way, being part of his life and his community, respecting him in front of a table of four adults, four strangers, four foreigners, allowing him to have a role with pride and dignity.
People want a job, or if not a job, then they want a role, because a job (or a role) allows them to live with dignity.
Every place we visit, walking down the street, or through a neighborhood, we’re greeted with smiles and hellos and welcomes and can I help you. Boat boys arrive when we arrive:
Can I help you with your mooring?
Do you want ice?
In the morning they are at our side again:
Do you want banana bread? (banana cake at Union Island)
Do you have trash?
Only once have we felt aggression, but that was in the form of upselling and re-pricing. On reflection, it possibly was driven by hunger and needs and maybe a bit of desperation. And it all worked out
Bonjour. Ca Va.
Hello. Good morning
Fist bump. Thumbs up.
Nearly everything is closed on Sundays in the islands. Sundays are for church and for friends and for family. But not for work, there is plenty of time for that. Everywhere we went, we saw families in the morning dressed for church and in the afternoon dressed for the beach. Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, kids, friends, aunts, uncles. Driving to church, walking to church. Sitting on the beach. Grilling on the beach. Playing in the water. Listening to music. Having a drink. Down here, it’s called Limin’. We might say Chilling. Here it’s Limin’.
A desire to live with dignity and be treated with respect. To be seen. To be acknowledged. To be engaged. To live as part of a community, to belong. To have a family, and children. And the forever hope that my children will have more opportunity, be better off, have a better life, than I have had.
Talk to me.
Recognize not the difference between you and me, but the sameness between you and me.
Dignity. Respect. Community. Family.
That I am the same as you.