lesson of the doll

Day two of the Big Storm. It’s not so big, really, but we’ve had so few this winter that it seems extra nasty. So although I’m cozy by a glowing fire, my thoughts have turned to warmer climes and spring vacation, just ahead. Oh, how we love the Caribbean! Which reminds me of a story … and a lesson that really stuck.

We celebrated our tenth anniversary with our first Caribbean cruise. Everything about that trip was a grand adventure — from our first flights together, trans-Atlantic to exotic Aruba and then exploring a bit of six southern tropical gems, until then known only in our dreams. Aruba to Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada, Barbados, Martinique and back. Each day we disembarked on a small island surrounded by translucent azure seas, met by people as warm and friendly as the sunshine.

One day we enjoyed a private tour with Brian, a gracious man who took great pride in his homeland and loved Americans, the 1983 invasion still fresh (and fortunately, favorable) in his memory. Brian was quick to point out lingering pro-American graffiti as we zipped through downtown St. Georges, friendly honk-honk-honks governing every turn. We left the bustle behind and found our way to the lush countryside, admiring the falls and swimming in the sea and purchasing bright green baskets woven of fresh fronds by the beach. We stopped at a roadside stand for rich, dark vanilla — no two bottles alike and each adorned with handmade labels. We purchased whole brown nutmegs laced over with ruby-red mace and bottles of finely ground cloves, as deeply tinted as our soil on the farm. By late afternoon we felt full to the brim of life.

Returning to the pier, we strolled by a number of small shops with vendors selling their wares. I was down to my last bit of cash but hoping to find a small doll. I walked back and forth as merchant ladies called out, “Hello, my friend. What you looking for? Come here, friend,” drawing me in, eager to sell. They had plenty to offer within my meager budget but nothing appealed to me. Their dolls seemed cheaply made, not worth my purchase. I turned up my nose and returned to the ship, cash firmly in hand.

And soon enough, but yet too late, I recognized my mistake. A few bucks wouldn’t last long and didn’t buy much in my world. But there, they meant something. Any one of those proud women would have been pleased to exchange what she had for what I could give. And it would have been more than a fair trade. I was quickly ashamed at my disdain.

The lesson of the doll is to value what she has to offer, whoever she is and whatever it may be. Twenty years later, it is still with me.

~René Morley

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