He sat quietly, looking on as the procession passed his spot.
These people had been fasting and were now celebrating. Renewal, fecundity, life’s cycles. All wrapped up into one gaudy display. Their biggest religious holiday of the year.
After it passed, and the other watchers had dispersed he looked around. There was another, like himself, who had just been looking on.
She was old, older even than he, and as she struggled to rise, he felt pity for her. So he went over and offered his arm. She smiled up at him. “Oh dear, it’s come to this. Many years ago men would offer me their arm, so as to be seen with me. Now it’s just to be kind and assist me.” Her smile was like a gift, it lit up her face.
He offered to escort her home. She smiled, the dimple-that-was, now more of a wrinkle, appeared again. “Don’t you have some party to go to?” she asked him.
“None more important than seeing you safely home” he replied.
When they reached her small house, she invited him in for a cold drink and something to accompany it. Seated in her garden, they chatted like old friends. Eventually the conversation came round to the religious holiday. She asked if he was alone for it, and he told her that where he lived, they came the day before bringing gifts, and a special meal, but today was a lonely day for many. Their families did not fetch them, or were far away.
He said “I don’t understand them. They could all be together, singing and laughing, yet they hide in their rooms, as though today were a day of sorrow, instead of their most important holiday in the year.”
She thought for a moment, then replied “Maybe it is because they think only of receiving and not of giving. You don’t have to give what you don’t have, but a smile, a kind word, a song; these are all gifts that can be given, no matter your circumstances.”
He just stared for a moment. Then he said “Please will you give me the pleasure of accompanying me to my daughter’s home for the main meal today? I have no money for presents and was not going to go to them because of that. But thanks to you I think I have many smiles and kind words I can give. And to introduce you to them would be the best gift I could bring”.