As I’m interacting with some of the members of Remote Year, I find myself sharing some of the more impactful travel stories that I’ve had along the way.
The sugarplum is a locally named fruit in the small town of Robertsport in Liberia where I did a nursing volunteer stint.
I realized when I went back to the written sugarplum story, that I didn’t tell the ‘Revelation’ of the importance of this simple act of kindness. Here is a section of the original content:
I don’t know how to explain the importance that this simple fruit will forever hold for me. After spending the day acclimating to the people, the heat and the local environment a small boy runs up to me while I’m reflecting on the days events. It’s nearing dark. There have been so many small children through that I remember if I’ve seen him before. He holds out his hand and in it is a ripened sugarplum…he wants me to take it. Having been in many developing countries where all the children are trained to ‘sell and beg’ I smile and ask him ‘how much?’, automatically assuming that he is wanting something from me. He looks at me strangely, saying nothing. I ask again, and he smiles as he lays the sugar plum on the table and runs off in the near darkness.
Learning the way…
So, why was this simple act of kindness so impactful to me even years later?
During my time in Robertsport, I learned that the act of obtaining any food/fruit was one of dedication and work. There was a boat near the market that had painted on it “No food for lazy man”. This was an honest attribution of the entire community, and one that I learned when I went to the market to find fruit.
In Robertsport, no individual or family owns the source of food. If there is a fruit tree on an individuals property, it’s not solely the property of the individual. After I had gone to market seeking out some fresh fruit: to no success, my neighbor boy Emmanuel explained to me how I was to find fruit for myself. He gingerly led me, holding my hand to the fruit bearing tree across the ‘yard’. Here he proceeded to show me the perfect size rock and in his form of english, instructed me on where to hit the rock and how to identify the freshest of the fruit.
We tossed rocks into the tree for several minutes before a sugarplum fell to the ground and at the same moment a look of joy and adrenaline crossed his face as he vaulted to the spot where the fruit dropped. He picked up the sugarplum and with one of the most genuine smiles I think I’ve ever seen..he held it out to me. I was intent on ‘fishing for my own’ and insisted that he keep the fruit of his labor. It took me another dozen or so throws to get my fruit to drop from the tree and we shared in cheering for the success. We continued for a few more minutes and I walked home with two sugarplums in hand and more joy in my heart that I can express.
Throughout the rest of my time in Robertsport, I witnessed daily occurrences of children with rocks seeking the prize of the fresh fruit among other very intense food related experiences. Food truly was something that this community had to work for…whether it was fishing for it or tossing stones in the trees. It was a commodity that we in the US take very much for granted and for many is a true struggle of survival.
In looking back at the experience, I know now what a great honor it was for that little boy to bring me a sugarplum. It was more than a simple act of kindness….he literally gave me fruit from his mouth that day. This experience will ever be remembered with fondness and a much more open heart.