I had the absolute honor of living in Madagascar for just over two years.
I think we all have defining moments or experiences in our lives. Those types of experiences that make you go right or left at your life’s cross road and stay so deeply entrenched in you they become part of you. (I’m not sure if I took a right or left but I know I made a sure and definite turn because of living in that country)
The town I lived in was a tropical beach town so the nights were almost always hot, muggy and filled with sea salt breezes. You could walk around town at night and as one of the few vazaha’s (The Malagas word for foreigners) most people recognised you.
Fruit was fresh, fish was fresh, meat was fresh and buying dinner suppliers took over an hour because you had to walk around a market and literally pick up every ingredient from a different stall and then you had to do that every day because most things wouldn’t last longer than a day or two.
Fresh was so much the norm that when I came home and asked for lime in my drink and didn’t actually see a wedge of lime in my drink I ask the bartender why he hadn’t added it, to which he answered “you don’t go out much do you?”…um you don’t live in a tropical paradise where fruit is fresh and not from a cordial bottle do you!? (I didn’t say that..I blushed and felt stupid but how cool would I have been if I did)
In the time I lived in Madagascar I met a family of banana sellers. Every family only grew and sold one crop. I see now that this was an incredible way to make each person’s work and product special and needed. It was such an intricate and delicate community built on trust and interdependence that I wish I had appreciated more while I was there.
So they sold bananas and we became friends. We never ever spoke more than one or two broken words of English or Malagas to each other but we were friends.
This family used to sell their bananas off a little wooden bench of sorts during the day and at night they would drape a sarong over that same bench and sleep there. They lived day to day on the side of the road under their banana stand. They had one pair of clothes each and cooked on a small coal fire against the shop wall where their stand was.
One night I stopped at their stall to have a ‘chat’ and they did something that changed me and I will never forget.
When I left they took the last bunch of Bananas they had on their stand and gave them to me.
As a gift they gave me their last viable option to make money that night. They gave me, the vazaha with a new pair of clothes for every day of the week, who lived in a house with running water and had just eaten a meal with more protein and substance than their family had probably seen in a week, their LAST bunch of bananas.
Just take a moment to fully grasp the beauty of that.
Think of going to your fridge and putting every last bit of food you had in a packet and then emptying your wallet into that packet and giving it to someone you couldn’t even understand. That is just the tip of the ice berg equivalent of what they did for me.
Some people may have looked at them and said they had nothing and physically maybe that was true but my God did those people have generosity, heart, grace and love in such abundance. A level of abundance I have not seen again in my life.
Before that night I would be embarrassed if the things I had or the amount of money I had to give or share wasn’t spectacular. I would rather not give than give something that made me feel subpar.
Have you ever done that? Not done, not joined in, not started or not given something because it didn’t feel like enough or made you feel embarrassed because it wasn’t as big as other contributions?
Well I beg you to realise that it is enough.
Remember once upon a time a bunch of bananas was just enough to change one girl’s heart, her beliefs and ultimately her life!
“Even the Sunbird has enough food to share with 100 people.” – Malagasy expression-