Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body – Proverbs 16:24 ESV
I was wandering around the tourist area of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Shelves with tacky little statues, snow globes with leaning towers, and $10 T-shirts crowed small booths for tourists.
Shifty men with cases of “genuine fake” watches swarmed like bees. Rolex, Cartier, and Infinity—all for fifty bucks or less. Flashing fake gold and flaunting fake brands; their swift feet were ready to run if the authorities were to show up.
“No thank you, no thank you, no thank you,” I sang as I swam through the men hocking their wares.
Then I spotted her. She sat on a bench with colorful scarves for purchase draped over her arm. A blue, yellow and red headdress wound around her head, and a purple full-length dress hung loosely from her shoulders. The bright colors shone against the backdrop of polished mahogany skin.
What appeared to be her “handler” shared the bench with her. I walked over and bent low to look her in the eyes. “You are so beautiful,” I said.
“Deese?” she questioned as she held up the scarves for examination.
“No, not the scarves,” I replied. “YOU are beautiful!” I waved my hand from the top of her head to the hem of her dress and back up again. “YOU, all of you!”
She turned to the indifferent man beside her for translation. When she understood, her face lit up like morning and her ivory teeth flashed like a slice of sun. She simply nodded as if to say, “Thank you.”
I walked back over to the group I was traveling with, and in a few moments I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the woman. Without words, she handed me a bracelet, one I’m thinking she had made herself.
It wasn’t anything fancy—just little white lettered cubes with alternating black beads strung together with elastic. But I wonder what it cost her to give it to a tourist.
I didn’t offer to pay for the gift. That would have taken away her pleasure in giving it. I did hand her a few coins for allowing me to take her picture.
I showed her the image of herself in my camera. “Beautiful,” I said once again. She smiled with a nod. Walked back to the bench. And handed the coins to the man.
Tears filled my eyes.
I don’t know what this woman’s life is like. I pray my assumptions are wrong. But I do know this: For one brief moment in her monotonous day of pedaling scarves, she felt lovely…because someone stopped and noticed her.
Oh how easy it is—this speaking a word of encouragement—this speaking words of life.
As you go about your day, look for opportunities to say a kind word. I promise, you won’t have to look very far.