This week, my 2 months of travel come to an end.
By this time next week, I’ll be back at home, back to my apartment, my routine, and (excitingly) my fur-baby.
I must say, if it wasn’t the (amazingly fulfilling) responsibility of living with my dog, I’m pretty sure I would have extended my stay in Brazil for much longer.
Before I left, I was especially concerned about being in Brazil.
It’s not the safest place to be, I don’t have a strong command of Portuguese, I don’t have any connection with the history or the culture…
The people of Brazil are complicated, beautiful and fiercely loyal.-My friend Sam
But I knew I had to go, and I knew I needed to do something completely different to kick off 2019.
The week leading up to my arrival, I had a conversation with an acquaintance I had met one year ago, a musician named Sam. We sat down to catch up, and as part of our conversation and he told me had spent a year in Brazil.
I took the opportunity to talk to him about my concerns about going to Brazil and tourist and traveler safety.
His response to me was absolutely beautiful. Sam told me “Lead with Love.”.
He shared the following story with me, which I have summarized for you.
I lived in Rio de Janiero for 6 months. One day, I was walking in Ipanema, near where one of the bigger Favellas are. As I walked past a street food cart, a young boy approached me and motioned to his mouth. At first, I turned away, but he followed me, and when I looked at him again, he repeated the gesture.
I told him “I’m sorry, I don’t have money for you.” the best that I can in Portuguese. The kid replied “I don’t want money,” and pointed to the food cart.
I moved closer to the cart and pointed to some meat cooked on skewers. The child nodded. I bought 6 skewers and sat down on the curb and shared them with my new friend. He sat down next to me, thanked me, and ran off.
Two days later, walking down the same street, he found me again. This time, I was quite hungry, so I bought lunch for us a second time.
Again, he ate, thanked me, and ran off.
A week later, I had a very different experience.
I was walking along, within a couple of blocks of where the young boy approached me, and a small gang of kids approached me. I realized that I was being robbed by a gang pre-adolescent children.
They started yelling at me threateningly, but I didn’t take the situation seriously until one of these children started pointing a knife at me.
Then I realized that I was in trouble. My iPhone, my wallet with my credit cards & cash, and possibly my cigarettes and lighter are all going to be taken from me.
I threw my hands up, preparing myself to surrender to their demands, and as some of the bigger boys started approaching me, the young boy I had fed the previous week appears almost out of nowhere.
‘No, no, no!’ The boy said. ‘Not this one. He’s my friend! He bought me food last week when I was really hungry’
Immediately, the boys stopped yelling. The closest boys to me, the ones coming closer to inspect my pockets, grasped my hands in a sort of handshake. Before I knew it, the boys were hugging me, and moving away from me, warning me that I was in a dangerous area and i could get hurt.
I stood there, in the middle of the street, utterly confused at what happened. I realized that the equivalent of $5 USD offering food to a young boy saved me from losing hundreds of dollars and weeks of hassle replacing my cards.
“Brazil,” he said, “is complicated. The people of Brazil are complicated, beautiful and fiercely loyal. Above all the recognize when people do good, and they remember them for it. In the moment where that little boy was asking for food, I was only thinking about him and me in that moment. He was hungry, and we both knew I could help him. Lead with your heart, not with your fears, and you’ll be okay. This is for everywhere, not just ‘scary’ places like Rio.”
I sat there dumbfounded and utterly embarrassed.
Embarrassed because I felt naive about being so worked up for my own security in Brazil and not being open to seeing other people’s reality. Embarrassed because I have seen enough of the world to know better.
Embarrassed and self-aware that words my friend was sharing with me are words that I may have repeated to someone else in a different context.
I landed in Brazil with a new resolve to see, feel and lead with my heart. Sam helped me realize that any instance of physical harm to me wouldn’t come as a result of intentional harm. I made sure my bullet journal reminded me every day to Lead with Love. To not turn away from poverty or the grittier side of Rio, but to watch attentively at what it’s like to live there from all sides. I don’t have to make the big problems my problem. But acting humanely and openly with the people around me in all of my encounters is something I can absolutely do.
Reflecting on this story with Tarot
How can I be more open and supportive in the way that I give to others?Tarot Meditation Topic
The Empress: gives like an open tap. Like the seeds of the pomegranate that is sometimes associated, she offers unlimited opportunities and resources in your best interest.
The Sun: shines down on us offering blessings, but how can I be more like the Sun? How can I shower blessings to everyone around them to help them grow?
The Page of Cups: A speaker with soft words, a messenger that bring opportunities for new connections and relationships.
Six of Pentacles: A reminder to act charitably, that there are others around us that do not have what we do, and sharing improves the lives of all.
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