De nada

Riding my bike down a wooded path through the park, I slowed nearly to a stop when I saw a toddler and his family ahead. The boy was in the path, hopping around and being silly. His chubby cheeks were pink, and cupid’s bow lips smeared with blackberry juice. The toddler’s mother, father, and older sister were picking the berries along the edge of the woods, while the the little guy’s intention seemed to be to joyfully obtain as much attention as possible. He was as cute as a little Teddy bear, and just as huggable.

As I was admiring the toddler and flashing approving smiles at his father, the boy’s sister came up to me, hair in dark pigtails trailing, and in her hands a small plastic bowl bearing a few plump and shiny berries. The girl looked to be about four-years-old. She tipped the bowl toward me, to show me her treasure, saying something to me in Spanish. Though I did not understand her words, I understood what she meant, and I admired her berries with enthusiastic words and a smile as her father stood by and grinned.

In response to my admiration, the little girl plucked a berry from her bowl and held it out, offering it to me. I had no idea where those tiny hands had been, but I recognized the value of her gift, gladly accepted it with a “Thank you!” and put it in my mouth right away. The tangy sweet flavor burst across my tongue as I began to chew, and I smiled at my benefactor in gratitude, exclaiming “Delicious!” I thanked the girl again as she moved to the side of the trail. “De nada,” she replied, walking back to the brambles to begin picking again.

I looked at her father, who was beaming. By then I had realized that the family spoke Spanish, and little- if any English. “De nada,” I said, nodding at him and smiling approvingly. He smiled back with obvious pride and love for his family. “Adios!” I said, and the father, daughter, and son chimed back, “Adios!”

Pedaling on my way, I smiled for a long time after that encounter, reliving it in my mind. I thought what a treat is must be for the family to harvest enjoy the wild berries, and how adorable those children are. “De nada,” the tiny girl had said, “you’re welcome,” she meant, but the phrase literally means “it was nothing.” And yet, her gesture, to share one of her precious finds with a total stranger, meant everything.

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