This started as a #TBT post but then I realized it was more than that.
In early 2005, I was cruising through a remote West African village in (as you can see in the photo) a very posh Jeep. At almost every lurching stop we were swarmed. Wide-eyed children and curious adults would run over to the car and once they got there we would proceed with some kind of sharing.
Sometimes the sharing would just be stares, exchanged fleetingly through shy and timid eyes. Or not so timidly through gaping, goggling eyes, a person struck with astonishing marvel.
Other times we would share fruit. Papayas, mangos and small bunches of bananas. Sticky sweetness passing from one person to the next.
Almost all the time there were hands. We shared waves and high fives and every so often a lingering handshake, two people gripping with deep wonder about who the person on the other side of all this really was.
A few times there was music. A song sung in rapture, a gift sprung loose from a chorus of joy-filled bodies.
Now, I'm not a singer and I don't travel with a tambourine so I never knew what to offer, or how to complete the musical exchange, until a young boy pointed at my small green iPod.
That stop turned out to be longer than the others. It became clear rather quickly that we were in a place so remote that most people had yet to experience recorded music. Life for them had been without a record player, radio or a bright yellow Sony Walkman, never mind a four-ounce iPod.
A small line formed and people began taking turns, stepping up to the edge of the Jeep intent on experiencing "the miracle" – the music that magically, and mysteriously played for the person when I held a small piece of plastic up to their ear. Paul Simon’s Cecilia was let loose on anyone willing to step up for a listen.
Eventually, an old woman was pushed forward. She was small, tiny really, but stern and she peered at me with thick trepidation. As soon as our eyes met she crossed her arms tightly over her chest.
“She thinks you are a witch,” said one of the men who spoke English.
I smiled my best non-witch smile, and held out my hand, offering her one of my earbuds. She didn’t move and every ounce of her told me there wasn’t a chance.
“There’s always a chance.” I thought to myself.
I looked down at my iPod and remembered I had music from a Senegalese artist. I wasn’t sure if he sung in the same language this woman spoke but I thought his chances for a match were better than Paul’s.
I handed my earbuds to the man beside her and he listened. A broad smile came across his face and he nodded his head, slowly and surely. He passed the earbuds to the old woman and after some back and forth, he managed to convince her to put them in her ears.
I’ll never forget the look on her face as it softened. She smiled at me and I smiled back. She moved closer to me and took my hand, tears slid down her black silky cheeks.
“She thinks you are a spirit,” said the man, “and that her father brought you here. The music…it’s what he sang to her when she was a little girl.”
If you’re willing to share, there is always a chance. Especially if what you’re sharing is filled, overflowing with joy.