Dr. Neill Neill
Sometimes life delivers a lesson, an image, a jolt that makes such a profound impression that it lasts a lifetime. This is a story of a simple act of generosity over 30 years ago that indelibly impacted me, materially and spiritually.
Not long ago in mid-November I was heading for California from Vancouver Island on my motorcycle. All the early-winter storms seemed to be happening elsewhere, leaving me with decent weather for my journey. The return trip along the California, Oregon and Washington coast was spectacular.
As I rode south, I thought of earlier journeys. I recalled a solo motorcycle adventure the year I first became a grandfather.
That particular journey started in Eastern Canada and took me through Mexico and Central America.
Zigzagging around Southern Mexico, I stopped at the central market in a town whose name I don’t remember. The market was enclosed by a 5-foot high brick wall with various entrances. The market occupied a whole city block in the centre of town.
The mid-afternoon temperature was in the 90s so the shade of the trees in the market square was beckoning. I parked my bike near one of the openings in the wall and prepared to head for the shade.
I could see that the market was quite busy, but the sidewalk outside the wall was almost deserted. Two 8- or 9-year-old boys with a shoeshine box were waiting patiently by the wall. About 30 feet further along the sidewalk, a man with a white cane and a tin cup was patiently leaning against the wall. No one else was in sight.
I wondered why the boys weren’t in school. They looked very poor and I assumed they had to work, as did many children in Mexico and Central America at that time.
I later discovered that in some Southern Mexico towns school hours were from 8 to 10 in the morning and resumed about 6 in the evening. So it’s possible the boys did go to school, but were working during their siesta. I’ll never know for sure.
When I returned from the market some time later, the boys were packing up their shoeshine box. I assumed they were calling it a day.
But before they headed for home, they walked over to the blind man and put some of their meager earnings in his cup. Apparently, they saw him as even more in need than they.
In that instant of seeing the very poor in an act of heart share what little they had with the even more poor, I got a glimpse of true generosity of spirit. It was a simple physical act. It was an immense spiritual act. It was a true act of community. Wow!
What happened in that moment touched my heart and soul. It was a pivotal moment in my own spiritual development. Even now after thirty plus years have passed, tears are clouding my vision as I recall the story.
That day I learned something about the immense generosity of spirit of which human beings are capable. I learned that generosity has absolutely nothing to do with how much money we have.
I can’t help but remember those boys whenever I give, whenever I hesitate to give, and whenever I receive.
I invite you to join me in remembering the story of the two boys and the blind man each time we have an opportunity to give or receive.
How is the story of the two poor boys and the blind man relevant to your life?
Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill maintains an active practice on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. He focuses on healthy relationships and life after addictions. He is the author of Living with a Functioning Alcoholic – A Woman’s Survival Guide.