One of my most treasured memories from my international travels is from my time in the small country of Eritrea, located in the Horn of Africa. It was Christmas and the Peace Boat had docked to the sound of “Jingle Bells” being sung by local Christian women in traditional dress. The warmth with which they greeted us, their generosity as they welcomed us into their homes, and the joyful laughter and infectious smiles of the children as we passed out presents at the orphanage erased all feelings of homesickness as we celebrated Christmas in a place so far from home. A truly poignant moment came when I was seated on a tour bus, nearly ready to leave, and a woman standing outside the bus took off a beautiful worn leather necklace and handed it to me through the window. Her generous gift from the heart—my only Christmas present that year—brought tears to my eyes and is something that I will never forget.
Amazingly, I’m happy to say that was not the last time I saw that kindhearted woman. A year later when my travels brought me back to Eritrea I was able to meet her once more and try to repay her kindness. I brought photos of her and her children that I had taken during my last visit and was able to give them to her. Though it was a small token of my appreciation of the kindness she’d shown me on Christmas Day, she was thrilled—it may have been one of the few pictures she had taken of her and her family—and I was so glad I had the opportunity to give it to her.