It’s the Little Things

It’s easy to forget how much the little things can mean. How a casual smile from a stranger can brighten an otherwise gloomy day, or how the simple phrase “I’m thinking of you” can remind us that we indeed are not alone, even in our darkest times. We easily forget that while it costs nothing to be the giver of these little things, it could mean more to the receiver than ever thought possible.

Or, that the giver may actually have this one little thing repaid in an unexpected and glorious way.

In our case, the little action of giving our neighbor a lift has turned into an unbreakable bond between us, this island, and one of it’s youngest inhabitants. It has also given us one of our most incredible experiences in our two years of traveling. While we feel blessed enough to have gotten to know one of the families in our neighborhood – Jolien, her mother Francine, and the new baby Juliewe now are a part of their family.

On Sunday, we became Godparents to sweet little Julie.

The Pentecostal church was a mere shell of a building – exposed beams with thin plywood walls and a tin roof. The altar was decorated with heavy fuschia drapes hanging as a backdrop, adorned with various colors of plastic flowers cascading down. The only other embellishments in the otherwise drab and unfinished space were handprinted bible quotes on construction paper, stapled randomly around the open room. We entered mid-song, about 200 people were on their feet with their hands in the air, singing along to the Spanish hymn. Many in the parish had their eyes closed, losing themselves in the words.


We slid into the back row just as one song ended but it quickly broke into another, barely skipping a beat. Two women belted out the tune into microphones, accompanied by guitar, piano and drums, making the sound quite overwhelming for the small room. We stood, hummed along, and clapped to the tune, catching onto the enthusiasm and energy that coursed through the crowd.

And when the songs were over, after nearly a half an hour of standing, humming and clapping, the preacher began. He was accompanied by an interpreter who followed every sentence with the Spanish equivalent.

We were soon invited to the front for baby Julie to receive her blessing and baptism before the church. With no water used, and only oil on his fingers, the preacher put his hands on Julie, then on Jolien and her husband Jose, blessing them, their family, and their beloved young one.

Julie with the Minister

Jose, Jolien, Julie and me

Then he turned to Pete and I, and with his oily fingers placed on our forehead, he thanked us for being there, and asked God to protect “these two special people” so that we could aid Julie in making her connection with God. It was over quickly and without much pomp – I expected needing to declare our intentions and profess vows about our servitude of Julie in this house of God, but there was none of that. The sternness and deep boom of his voice was enough, however, to enforce that our intentions had better be true.

Oh, and how I wish we could somehow have recorded the inflection in his voice. The way he said Aaaaammmeeennn, will forever ring in my brain.

And he was just getting warmed up. After we returned to our seats and he proceeded into his sermon, then he really got going.

He was a performer. Like so many of the excitable ministers I’d only ever seen on TV or in movies, he strode up and down the aisle, punctuating his strongest statements with a melodic “Lord have mercy!” or “Come to Jesus!” He bobbed, he weaved, he yelled. No word of a lie, there was even a rockstar-kick in there at one point.

The crowd was with him. Nodding, hands in the air, yelling out various affirmations to his most rousing statements. I myself wanted to throw in a “hells yeah” at some points, but I kept my words in. He had me enthralled. Pete admitted that the minister actually had him a little scared.

Julie had begun to fuss at the loud noises and overexposure to the bright lights that were obviously keeping her from resting. The service was a long one, and in order to give the baby and Jolien a break, I took the young one into my arms and out of the room. We walked in the cool breeze on the road just outside. I hummed and swayed, trying to help her find sweet sleep.

She was very bright eyed and alert for being less than two months old. She gazed intently at everything about her, her eyes found me when I talked softly to her.

I gave her my own vows then. I pledged to be thinking of her wherever I am in the world, and to carry this most treasured memory dear to my heart. And, of course, that I would be back to see her.

That last vow was repeated later in the presence of her mother, who has occasionally been speaking near tears of our impending departure, and frequently saying: “You have to come back…you have to come back for your little girl.”

And we will. For as much as our little action helped them, this little one has touched us infinitely more.

 

41 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • June 8 2011

    Having two little kids, I am reminded just how much little things matter. The things we take for granted as adults are seen differently through the eyes of kids. It’s very refreshing! Congrats on becoming godparents! πŸ™‚
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Where in the world am I

    • June 8 2011

      Jeremy – that’s a very good point, and we do get those reminders sometimes through our volunteer work with kids. Sometimes it’s not so obvious though – how important just simple, little *good* gestures can be to whoever receives them. πŸ™‚

      • June 9 2011

        That’s exactly my point. Small gestures that kids often do and we don’t. Watch a little kid say hi to an adult passing by in a store and see their faces light up. See a kid share a snack with another child and you see the power of human connection and caring. These are the things I am referring to that we forget but that children can remind us – the little things.
        Jeremy Branham recently posted..Vancouver- TBEX- travel blogging- and my first modeling gig

        • June 9 2011

          Why don’t we? Why do we lose the will to do such things? I know I, at least, have had a couple of these significant reminders in our life, and I always shake my head in wonder that I need them in the first place….

  • Patricia
    June 8 2011

    What a beautiful way to close out your time there. Congratulations you two…Jolien made her baby one of the luckiest babies in the world! <3

    • June 8 2011

      Aw, thanks Trixie!! (Dos mas)!

  • June 8 2011

    Dade, that was beautiful! There’s certainly something divine at work here!

    • June 8 2011

      Thanks Ter! We feel pretty honored to have been brought together with them, that’s for sure. What an incredible time we have had here, and are leaving with some of our best memories and experiences to date!

  • Dayna
    June 8 2011

    Sheesh, you need a little disclaimer at the top: Warning, reading this post may make you a little misty eyed. I agree with Teri, that was beautiful!

    • June 8 2011

      Misty, only? Damn, I was going for full-fledged crying! πŸ™‚

      (Thank you!!)

  • Aww.. that baby is so cute!
    Christy @ Ordinary Traveler recently posted..Photo of the Week- Time is Running Out

    • June 8 2011

      She is a doll! And earns her pet names of “Princesa” and “Preciousa” from her mother πŸ™‚

  • Jacquie Pohorelic
    June 8 2011

    Oh my. This one touched me BIG. Really BIG. What I want to say is how incredibly natural and beautiful you look in the photo with baby Julie. To you both, I must say without the intent of pressure and with huge amounts of respect that I really, really, really hope that you become a mother and a father. To me, this post and the photos just bring home the fact that you should be.

    • June 8 2011

      Wow, Jax – as always, your beautifully kind words mean the WORLD to us. THANK YOU! xoxo

      I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel the tinge of thinking about my own. But right now I’m chalking it up to her being so DAMN cute, and not having been around one so wee in a awhile. Maybe, in time…

  • June 8 2011

    I have goose bumps! What an incredible experience. She is so precious. How lovely for her to have two beautiful wordly god parents.
    It is the little things that can sometimes be the biggest.
    Caz Makepeace recently posted..Magnificent Moscow

    • June 9 2011

      Thanks Caz πŸ™‚ It was definitely one of the most amazing evenings we’ve had in all of our travels. Just an incredibly uplifting and special experience.

  • jcruzfoto
    June 9 2011

    Great post!! Very touching and the title fits so well… It’s the little things indeed.

  • That is one cute baby!!!! Congrats guys!
    Andrew – The Unframed World recently posted..Wide Paths through Grand Bamboo

    • June 9 2011

      Thanks Andrew! She is pretty damn cute, I agree!

  • June 9 2011

    Congrats again guys. I think it is so important to remember the little things in life, to remember to not be so self centered and self conscious. Sounds like a blog I wrote a few days ago. Amazing the power of a smile or a “hello”
    Justin Hamlin recently posted..June 8- Relax!

    • June 9 2011

      It truly is, that amazing power! It spiraled into something pretty beautiful for us, something we will cherish!!

  • June 9 2011

    Wow, besides being such a huge honor, joining the family as godparents, what a an awesome cultural experience. I love the approach you guys take to travel/cultural immersion!
    Phil recently posted..Teaching a Malian Village of 25-000 People how to Draw Camels

    • June 9 2011

      Thanks Phil! For us, this is what travel is all about. A long, slow journey, to be filled with cultural experiences, and hopefully more beautiful moments like this!

  • Taryn
    June 9 2011

    I don’t know how to say this without sounding cliched or condescending. But this? This painting a loving, heartwarming, slightly heartwrenching and complete picture with words? Is WRITING.

    And also, Julie may be the most beautiful baby I have ever seen (‘cept mine, o’course πŸ™‚ ). My best wishes to her and her family. Can’t wait to hug her godparents and hear more of the seemingly little yet very kind things they’ve done in the past few months.

    • June 9 2011

      I love you. Thank you so much for saying that. Can’t wait to get some big squishy hugs from you soon! πŸ™‚

  • June 9 2011

    Thanks for sharing and I wish you the best as god parents and a wonderful life for Julie.
    Jason Castellani recently posted..Photo of the Day- Key West Schooner

  • June 10 2011

    Congratulations! I do hope you stay in touch and watch the child grow.
    Theodora recently posted..The Emptiest Landscapes on Earth

    • June 11 2011

      Thanks Theodora! I wish it was going to be easier to stay in touch with them (I am sure they have never even HEARD of Facebook), but we will do our best!

  • June 12 2011

    Such a wonderful story, and you’ll always have this connection to the family.
    The Travel Chica recently posted..The Worst Tourist Trap in Buenos Aires

    • June 13 2011

      Thanks Stephanie, and yes, I am pretty happy that we will have that connection!

  • June 13 2011

    How fortunate you are! It’s experiences like yours and making connections with people that make travel so, so awesome. πŸ™‚

    • June 13 2011

      Thanks Nicole! It is experiences like this that will always make me be an advocate for slow travel. This is what it is all about! πŸ™‚

  • June 18 2011

    Very cool how one little gesture can lead to something so rewarding. Congratulations!

    • June 18 2011

      Thanks Ray! It was a pretty incredible experience, started by something so small. πŸ™‚

  • June 27 2011

    What a beautiful experience! Makes me think of E.M. Forster’s exhortation – “Only connect.”

    There’s something especially sweet about the name Julie.

    • June 27 2011

      Julie was actually the name of her sister who had passed away a long time ago. πŸ™

      It was a simply stunning experience, and one we will cherish for many years!

  • July 4 2011

    Oooh, how lovely! πŸ™‚ What an amazing turn of events.

  • July 11 2013

    love your travels thanks so much for sharing.
    Shandra White Harris recently posted..Woman to Woman Wednesday with Dustin Hoffman

  • June 4 2014

    Unbelievably beautiful story!

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