My husband and I did not want to go to the dinner party. Our friends, the hosts, implored us, and we gave in. They were entertaining four people from Peru, Costa Rica and Bolivia along with a translator and did not want to run the language barrier gauntlet alone.
As it turned out, there were ten of us for dinner. The South American guests, all journalists sent to the US on tour by our State Department, spoke enough English to get along. It was certainly better than my Spanish. They were charming, urbane and well educated. We had a wonderful time right from the beginning.
One young lady, who turned out to be the anchor of a morning TV news show in Lima, sat across from me at dinner. The entire evening, as she spoke, a simple but stunning Peruvian silver ring on her finger caught my attention. Finally, I told her how beautiful and unusual it was. Without any hesitation, she took it off, handed it to me, and said, "It's yours. A gift from me."
I didn't know what to do. I felt my face go red and was bewildered as to how to proceed. I mumbled something about how it was too much, and I couldn't really take it. I only meant to compliment her on it. Really, it was so kind, but I just should not take it.
About then, our translator, Javier, who sat next to me, touched my arm and quietly but firmly said, "Take it, and say thank you. Otherwise, she will be offended." I did as he said, my face still burning from this extraordinary gesture.
As we said our goodbyes that evening, I wore my already cherished ring. I promised her that as soon as my book series was published, I'd send her copies. And I will do that. It is a solemn oath.
Since that autumn night, I've reflected many times on the event. Nothing quite like this had ever happened to me. The ring has become a treasured talisman of the generosity of the human spirit. I wear it almost every day, and it makes me happy. It makes me reflective. It makes me realize there is such generosity and kindness in people wherever they may live, whatever their culture.
Never have I met a person with a more giving spirit. I was later told this is the South American way, and I do believe that. I also believe it is the human way. It is the way of a kind heart and a generous soul. It is the generosity of Christmas in September.