Monday, November 23, 2009

Drinking from a Saucer

Tattoos. Once you get one, you're hooked for life. Lucky for me, I haven't had the money to get one in a while. I already have four, so I can only imagine what my body would look like if I was richer.
And speaking of richer, I've decided what I want my next tattoo to be. It's part of a poem. Written by an old man. Who was blind. And had leprosy. This is one of those travel memories that makes me cry, but in a good way- in a "grateful for my life" kind of way.
For over a decade, a man named Fintan Kilbride organized a trip to Jamaica with a group of volunteers. I had the fortune of going on two of these trips. People usually picture the resort version of Jamaica: white beaches, aqua waters, palm trees, commercial reggae. But outside the resort walls, there are layers upon layers of poverty. Abandonment seems to be a big issue in Jamaica. Pets, kids, the elderly- their only hope are facilities run by volunteers and non-profits.
There was a home for the abandoned elderly that Fintan's groups visited every summer. It was the highlight of the residents' year. We would read to the residents, play dominoes, hear their stories, and listen to them play music. And we would celebrate one man's birthday. The first time I met George McFee (he liked to go by his pen name), he was 80 years old and started a music jam for us with a few of the other residents. The second time I met him, he was 81, and told us that he was dying. But that we were not to worry, because he had lived a full life and felt blessed by god. This coming from a man who had been blind for 60 years, who had had leprosy since he was 40, and who had been abandoned by his family. No ears, no nose. Stubs for toes and fingers, but he sure could jam on a harmonica.
He also thanked us for celebrating his birthday with him every year. He told us that it gave him something to look forward to, that it made him feel loved, and that it proved that he had never truly been abandoned.
He then recited a poem for us. I wish I could remember whether he wrote it or whether he was simply reciting a favorite poem. Either way, it was the most beautiful thing I've heard, coming from a man in his condition.
So, this is the part of the poem that I am going to have tattooed on the top of my foot, right next to the flower that's already there:

"I'm drinking from a saucer, because my cup has overflowed. In this life I feel, I have reaped more than I have sowed".

That way, whenever I am feeling ungrateful, all I have to do is look down and remind myself that if an old blind man with leprosy could feel like his life was overflowing with blessings, than I certainly can, too.

1 comment:

Aheadblog said...

this is so true, jamaica is not as romantic as it seems

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