A month or two ago, I started keeping a Thought Journal. I was inspired by a hippie, van-living, bearded pro-baseball player. He’s not, as you would say, the typical image that comes to mind for someone that makes large sums of money doing the thing they love. He kept a though journal, scribbling down his thought when deemed necessary. While I only have a page and a third of thoughts—tiny pages, mind you— I was rereading it the other day when one stopped me. It’s a thought that keeps coming to my head over and over again. I wrote: why do those who have the most give the least? And naturally, this is a generalization and can’t be given in detailed descriptions to every single individual. But, as a whole, those who have everything, proportionally, give the least amount of it away. Or rather, those who have practically nothing, that are just scraping to get by, give away so much of what they have. And mainly, without much thought to it. There is practically no reluctancy , no hesitation, in giving away what they have. It’s perplexing.
Being in a country post natural disaster is, at times, very difficult. The damage is hard to see. Places I love, endear, and call home have been destroyed and impacted on a massive scale from this earthquake. While everything is slowly tipping the scale back towards normal—or a redefined normalcy—the damage is still hard to dismiss. What’s harder to dismiss is the generosity of the people I’m here to help.
In the Khumbu, I was, along with Mike, one of maybe five to ten white people. In the entire Khumbu. A place that is known for its sprawling tourism and abundance of whites. It’s the hip thing to do, go to the Khumbu and trek to Everest Bace Camp. Normally I’m asked if I’m headed up or down; to EBC or coming back from it. At first I had no clue how to answer that question: heading up or down? What they hell did they mean up or down? I wasn’t heading anywhere but back to Phortse half the time. This time, though, no questions like that were asked.
Up in Khumjung, the damage wasn’t dismissible wherever we looked. Stupas, chortens, houses, the monastery—all of Khumjung seemed to have been hit hard by the earthquake. One family, on the approach in, across from the Hillary School, called out to us. The father, a man in his thirties, Rai, and smiling, asked us in perfect English what we were doing here. We explained our relief efforts, but I was distracted, looking at his house and camp in the background. The walls and roof of his house had practically all been cracked, or fallen over. His camp, an odd assortment of orange and clear tarps, a blue water drum, and a holy forest green tent, was little shelter. It seemed livable, barely, for one person. Semi-comfortably, that it. However, he had his entire family crammed in here: him, his wife, and his two beautiful kids no older than six or seven.
We delivered the tarps to my friend Mingma’s mother and relatives, ate way too much food, and started heading back to Namche. I, in my pseudo-anthropological ways, had a question I wanted to ask the ‘man who spoke English well.’ I had been asking everyone what they thought they needed the most in their village. Calling him over to the rock wall, or what was left of it, I didn’t even have time to ask the question before he spoke. He invited us for tea and biscuits so quickly that we couldn’t refuse. Here he was, without a home, looking after a wife and two kids, and he’s giving us that same generosity experienced practically everywhere in Nepal. Giving more that receiving. It was compelling, and he wouldn’t stop his kindness. Despite having almost nothing and living in a horrible situation. Mike ended up buying a gorgeous painting from him in an effort to support the family. Their gratitude was amazing. We took pictures, asked him the question, and said goodbyes.
Those who have the least give the greatest. I’m sure of it. People throughout the Khumbu, knowing what we were doing there, wouldn’t let us pay. Their giving ways, albeit stubborn, wouldn’t have happened elsewhere, in say the USA or similar countries. They’d come up with excuses, saying it was someone’s birthday party. Yeah, so what?! You just experienced a life altering earthquake, and you won’t take our money?!
It’s all about giving, when it really comes down to it. Perhaps these amazing, wonderful people, not affected by the greed and riches of excessive consumerism, truly recognize that the most important thing, when all is said and done, is personal, human interactions. Not money, not wealth. When someone dies, they’re remembered by their impact, not their financial fertility. Or perhaps I’m being naïve, and there are other intentions by them being so kind and generous to us. But I don’t think so. These people, who don’t blink an eye when offering something to you, who don’t hesitate before saying ‘come have tea,’ or ‘have you eaten,’ they’re truly special.
Give, and give big.
In another note, here are some photos, I hear people like those kinds of things: