Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Never Say Never

A man from my village named Gavin is a crack addict.

In the mornings before work while I'm drinking my morning coffee on the porch I always see him walking with a big bag of coconuts to go sell, minding his own business. It doesn't take long before I hear my neighbors yelling at him to stop selling coconuts for crack, to get his life together, or to put on some shoes.

When I was coming home from a football game at the village park late one night, I noticed someone walking closely behind me. I started to get nervous, so I stopped walking and turned around. It was Gavin. He had the most beautifully big smile on his face. And I couldn't help but smile back.

Up close he looked so normal. His face was clean shaven, his teeth were perfectly white, something that is very rare here. He looked surprisingly young and I could picture how handsome we could have been, had circumstances been different.

I stuck out my hand and introduced myself.

We walked back from the park together side by side, neither saying a word. When we reached my house, I could hear my neighbor yelling at him to put on some shoes from the next house over. Not seeming to notice, he stuck out his hand and said goodbye.

From then on, every time he passed my house in the morning he would drop a coconut off on the front step of my door. He would never say a thing or ask for anything. He would just go on his way.

One afternoon I asked around to see if any men in the village had any extra shoes. That next morning I put shoes on the doorstep right where I knew the coconut would be later on that morning.

I knew when he picked them up, because I heard my neighbor yell from her window 'You better not sell those, Gavin.' She later told me I was helping out a lost cause. That the shoes would be gone by night time.

Sure enough, he stopped by my house that night not wearing any shoes. I looked at him in disbelief, as he told me he needed to scrub them before he could wear them. In my mind, there was no other explanation, but that he had sold them for crack.

I slammed the door on the same beautiful smile I welcomed earlier that week, feeling defeated and disrespected all at the same time.

But something remarkable happened tonight, which made me reconsider every preconceived notion I have ever had...about anything. Tonight Gavin showed up at my door with two coconuts in his hands and the same dirty shoes I had laid on the doorstep earlier that week, that definitely needed scrubbing. I was wrong and so were my neighbors. This time my smile matched his.

In heaven, all the interesting people are missing--Friedrich Nietzsche