There is nothing more humbling than to have someone 20 times more poor than you hand you a plate of food. My neighbor gave ME “panes con pollo” (chicken sandwiches) just moments ago and I was nearly speechless. It was a Christmas moment to remember.
She lives in the house next door, which is made of scraps of wood and corrugated metal. There are four adults and one little boy, her boy, all living together on a plot 1/3 the size of hours. They do not have a water pipe running from the main water company’s (ANDA) pipe to their home, and it is too costly for them to install, so we give them water when they need it.
It is definitely a humble home, where packed dirt ground outside becomes packed dirt floor inside. My neighbor washes with a fury – I have never seen anyone churn out so many diapers and shirts as fast as her. She does not have a PILA (washing sink). She washes all of her laundry and dishes on the top of an old white metal table. This, and two large metal drums, serves as her “Pila”.
We have been neighbors since July, but only seen each other’s profiles till this week, when I saw her on the sidewalk, and got to chat with her. “Sabas,” the older gentleman of the house does all the water “arrangements” with us. When she offered me the sandwiches I was so grateful; I had just begun to think “what will I eat?,” being alone with the sick dog tonight, when I heard her calling from the other side of the house. A glance from her side of the fence over to mine shows a sheer chasm of wealth between her and me. If anyone should have been giving food, it was me!
But this is not new nor exclusive to here. Worldwide, one will encounter the poorest of the poor in almost any country, sharing what little they have, always an extra portion, whilst the rich sweat through machinations on how to whittle them down to a niggardly wage.
I learned a lot about my neighbor in our 10 minute exchange. She does not want another child and is “planificando” as it is said here (‘planning,’ or taking birth control). The female empowerment cheerleader in my head shook her pom-poms when I heard this. Her little boy has a cold, as it dips down at night these days, so I found some tea bags for her to heat up.
After I ate my sandwiches, I found the set of musical Christmas lights we bought this week at the market. I hung them up on the window at the far corner of the house, nearest theirs, and put up the volume so we could share the blinking lights set to the tunes of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and a One-Horse Open Sleigh.
Christmas Greetings to all from El Salvador