One of my favorite things about the Dominican Republic is the very sincere adoration for children. Kids are seen as gifts from God, sweet and innocent, a pleasure to have around even with all the noise they tend to make. Coupled with this love for little ones is a touching tendency toward spontaneous generosity. The other day we were walking down a dirt road that traverses a little village we frequent out in the mountains. As we passed by a certain house, we were greeted with the usual wave of “God-bless-those-babies” and we smiled and returned the blessing. We continued on our way, but the little old lady who lived there called us back because she’d seen Zora pointing at something in her front yard. “Does she like this tree?” she asked us, referring to a small potted tree, and implying that because our kiddos are just so sweet they could have it. We thanked her for her kindness, but assured her it wasn’t necessary. Definitely the first time I’ve been randomly offered a plant from someone’s yard.
Not five minutes later, while waiting for the mini-bus back to the city, a woman ambled by us and, upon seeing our kids, instinctively broke off pieces of the crackers she was eating to share with them. This was interesting because it was in front of the same house where we often wait for the bus and the woman who lives there always invites us (and others) onto her porch, and offers us seats and sweets and a little conversation while we wait. I once told her that were I to go wait for the bus on someone’s porch in the U.S., they’d call the cops, and she just laughed at our barbarism.
A week later, we found ourselves in the bus station in Santo Domingo, on our way to visit some Baha’i friends in San Juan de la Maguana. I went with the kids to pick out a snack at the small cafeteria upstairs, and while there Zora was offered a little cup of juice by a nice man who spoke a bit of English. I noticed that he had just finished pouring it from the same container he had poured his own drink from, so we took the cup and thanked him for his generosity. We headed downstairs and I then explained to the kids that sweet as he was, we don’t ever consume drinks from strangers in bus stations. We swung by a sink to pour out the juice and it was then that I realized that Zora hadn’t paid attention to my earlier explanation. She began to weep profusely as I dragged her back, bawling, to her waiting mother.
Rebecca asked what was wrong, and just as I began to explain to her what had happened, a young man sitting across from us expressed his sympathy with a couple of rolls of Sweet Tarts! The irony was overwhelming, and, laughing, I grabbed Max to head for a pre-bus-ride bathroom trip. Now, luckily (especially given the fascinating lack of any toilet seats in public restrooms), there is always an attendant or two in the bus station bathroom keeping the place clean, handing out paper towels and selling gum and candy. No sooner had we finished washing our hands did another young guy offer Max candy from that stash!
I had Max pocket that too, with a muchas gracias to boot, and we headed out to catch our bus with a question reeling in my mind: How do you teach your kids to be trusting people, yet not naive fools? Well, maybe I’ll figure that one out next week.