So, literally the very first Argentine I met here in Buenos Aires was Andres. Now, Andres lives on the edge of a plaza just a couple blocks from my house. And when i say on the edge of the plaza, i should better clarify that I mean the curb. Well, when we first met, he was still living on the sidewalk, with all of his various belongings, because since he was around 20 years old, Andres has not had formal housing. To put it more crudely, he’s a homeless person. But then the following week after we first met, some of his friends from the neighborhood and the church (because he really does have a good number of friends) got together the ‘plata’ (Argentine slang for ‘money’) to buy him a camper trailer. So after some 30 odd years, he moved into his own permanent home along the edge of the Plaza Union Latiaamericana.
More than just seeing Andres each Sunday in church, I occasionally make a neighborly visit if i happen to be passing by and we’ll share a coffee and some conversation. So, over time now, we’ve built a unique friendship, despite our incredibly vast differences in background and life experiences. So when I heard that Andres’ birthday was the next day, i just knew we had to do something to for him.
So, the plan was to get together with a few people from church. Diana (one of my roommates) got put in charge of cake making. She had never made a cake before, and well, i should responsibility for my part of the baking disaster that followed, because i assured her that the shallow meat roasting pan we had (the only opinion in the house) would work just fine. That turned out to be completely incorrect, as evidenced by the volcano-like eruption of cake batter which flowed freely down the insides of our little oven. In the end, the venture was declared a complete failure (although the parts that did eventually cook tasted quite good) and a cake was bought from a bakery. And that night we all got together at Gisele’s house and it was just a nice time, hanging out and whatever.
So from our conversations, I knew that Andres was born to a Jewish family, and although he had never practiced the religion very much, recently has gotten very interested in understanding this part of his heritage, and had even been attending some services at a messianic Jewish temple. So i had found him a book about the ancient history of the Jewish people. And i dont know if anyone had given him anything earlier in the day, but his reaction to getting my gift made me feel so good to see. He started looking through right then with so much interest, like not like people do just to be polite, but carefully studying the table of contents and starting to read certain sections. I know its such a cliche, but it made me so happy to see how much he truly liked it. Those sorts of moments are rare, but so special, when even for just an instant, you manage touch the life of someone, and then unknowingly they turn around and give you back something so much more meaningful.
I think Albert Einstein is able to express so much more clearly what i’m trying to say:
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest–a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.