A boy’s gift of water

Aug 9, 2017 by

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It has been five years, and she still talks about Rico — the boy who offered his rationed bottled water to her. It was her first time in an international setting with agriculture, a lifestyle that transcends every language, culture and country. The Virginia Tech team of which she was a part was working on soil fertility and crop production methods with some of the local farmers.

In the rural area of Guanacaste, (the western side of Costa Rica), tap water is unsafe to drink because of bacterial and sanitation issues. In many third-world countries, it is strongly recommended that people drink bottled water because of those issues. Bottled water can be scarce and costly for poor people who live in very rural areas. This is not only because of the price, but also the distance to local stores. Many times the most vulnerable people still resort to using tap water. If there is bottled water, it is often rationed. Family members each have a certain allotment for their personal drinking per month.

The girl from America

She was 19, and he was nine. For an American girl, it was quite the change — several weeks of living in the hot, humid climate, sleeping on a pallet on a dirt floor, and never feeling completely full after a meal. A little over 100 pounds, it didn’t seem that she needed much food and water to sustain herself. There came a moment when she wasn’t as strong as she thought she was. One day while out in the field, she collapsed. Dehydration.

The boy in Costa Rico

Rico was the first to notice her and ran to his mother. He begged for one of his rationed bottles of water for Miss Rebekah.

He asked to accompany the nurse to the clinic where they checked Rebekah and gave her an IV to replenish her system. Rico sat beside the white American Mennonite girl, holding her hand while the IV was infused.
Sometimes the poor are the most giving. They know what it’s like to have little or nothing and are more willing to share instead of hoarding. Just like Rico.

Different and alike

Rico is the son of a Costa Rican farmer who works the soil during hot days to mete out a living for his family. Rebekah is the daughter of an American Mennonite construction worker who works in and under houses in hot and cold weather to provide for his family. They met in the fields of Rico’s father, where she spent two weeks.

That day, sitting in the clinic with his friend, Rico’s eyes beamed with pleasure at being able to stay with her, providing what he could for his friend Miss Rebekah. His heart was happy because he was willing to give in a way that was true giving; for true giving involves sacrifice.

The truest gift of all

He didn’t have much, but he offered the best that he had: his bottle of rationed water. He knew it was what she needed, and it was something he could give.

According to our standards, Rico is poor. He lives and works in poverty. Yet his joy in being able to give was evident — a true proof that, despite what others might think, Rico is very, very rich.

I am Rebekah’s mother, and I am grateful for the young lad who noticed that my daughter needed help. I am grateful for his friendship and for his willingness to sacrifice. I’ve never met Rico, but if I do, I will want to thank him.

Not only will I want to express appreciation, I’ll want to give him honor and blessing for giving from his heart. That is truly the richest form of giving.

Gert Slabach is a member of Faith Mennonite Church in South Boston, Va., which is part of Mountain Valley Mennonite Churches. She blogs at My Windowsill, where this post first appeared.


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