As is usual in life, it’s the small things that teach you the big lessons. This happened to me while traveling around the State of Sonora, in northern Mexico, staying with native tribes. As fate would have it, I would get taught by a 2-year-old Seri girl.
I had just arrived at the little seaside village of the Seri and had met my host, who is a linguist and cultural promoter; a very wise man who taught me many things not just about the Seri and their way of life, but of the stars and the plants and the animals.
But I think the biggest lesson of all came from his granddaughter, a joyful, active two-year-old called Suribelle (nicknamed “Sury”), who came in almost as soon as I had put my backpack down on the concrete floor of their house, speaking in a funny mix of Spanish and her own language as bilingual children are wont to do.
I smile at her. She smiles back at me. She hugs me. I hug her back. Things aren’t very complicated; the ice formed from cultural and individual differences is broken before authentic human contact.
Over the course of the rest of the day, I am quick to play tag with her, showing her how to take selfies with my point and shoot camera, speaking with her (understanding only the Spanish half of what she says), hugging her when she falls and scrapes a knee.
The next day, while having a meal of freshly caught flounder with my host family, Sury’s grandfather sits with me. He is a man of few words, much given to meditative silences, but his company is pleasant, reassuring. He turns to me and says that Sury told him something before they went to bed the last day:
“I am happy because my brother has come to stay with us.”
I am dumbstruck by what she said, how simple, authentic, pure and, indeed, how human the comment was. It struck on that deepest of chords which ache to be strung within all of us; that need for authentic human contact, that need to connect with other beings among such a vast expanse of universe. Sury had welcomed me, a backpacking stranger who used the same clothes for several days and grew a funny beard, as family. I had to blink profusely to stem tears of joy. Sury didn’t realize it, but she had made my trip.
We as a global society, especially during the digital age, have ironically become more disconnected from each other as we connect with the world at large. We tend to see other people and think in terms of “me” and “them”, which most of us are programmed to do for some reason or another, instead of thinking in terms of “us”, which I think would be easier all around.
We are all a part of the same human tribe; a gigantic tribe which takes pleasure in good food, good company and brotherly love.
And I have to thank a grinning two-year-old who just smudged her mother’s lipstick all over her face and was now attempting to open a bottle of bright purple nail polish while she gabled on in her native tongue for the lesson.