In the bustling streets of a down-town city in Romania, I stood on my grandpa's rickety porch listening to the honking streetcars that travelled in the distance. Despite its proximity, the city seemed a hidden cavern of diamonds, just in reach but buried far from my sight, all thanks to a tier of buildings mocking my willingness to view the city.
My stomach began to growl. My dad suggested we go out to eat- an American classic. I could hardly believe my ears when the word "McDonalds" had left his mouth.
The ancient looking city was scattered with mom and pop bakeries emanating the smell of freshly baked pastries, guilty of only making me even more ravenous. At last- it was hard to miss- the neon yellow "M" that lit up the whole city and my whole heart.
Finally, burger in hand, I began to eat. Not a moment went by, when my eye caught a sight that had instantaneously eradicated my appetite.
As I watched, I felt myself losing control. My heart felt as if it had broken into little pieces and my eyes began to swell with tears. Embarrassed, I quickly wiped them away.
"Burger that good, huh?" my dad snickered, comedically slapping the table. His laughter abruptly turned into concern, as he slowly and subtly turned his head to reveal the culprit of my distraught emotions.
A woman in tattered clothing stood before us. Her feeble structure scrambling to pick up flowers from her wooden crate. I watched her kindly offer her creations to passing strangers. Minutes felt like hours as I watched her get denied by dozens. My emotions slowly transitioned from sorrow to animosity. I could not understand how dozens of people could strut by this woman, flaunting their luxury clothes and designer purses, without even giving her even the slightest sign of acknowledgment.
With empathy and my dad's approval, I proceeded to approach the woman. She smiled and handed me a beautiful, speckled flower. Despite once being pink, its petals had began turning the color of a musty river. Beautiful, nonetheless. As she placed the little flower in my hand, it submissively drooped to the side, as if she were trying to show me how weak she was. I looked at the woman, who then gave me a warm smile, and back at the flower.
My chest began to sink once again, as I observingly concluded that the state of turmoil the flower had been in reflected the misfortunes of her guardian. The woman had poured her heart into raising such a magnificent creation, and the flower, who had claimed that woman as her shining light and protector, was devastated to see her master in such ruins.
Confidently, I placed a crisp 10 lei in her hand ($2.33). She looked up at me frantic, confused. Without a second thought, she held her hands out towards me and gave me the whole bouquet of her 2 dozen assortments. What couldn't buy me more than a pack of gum had been worth her entire summer's harvest.
It struck me that we had both impacted each other that day. I could have only hoped that I restored some faith in her and presented her with the peace of mind that her life would turn out alright. In return, her kindness and persistence to keep selling flowers humbled me to feel grateful for the life I had, regardless of the countless rejections and her less fortunate circumstances. Despite the hard hand the universe had dealt her, her aura exuded kindness, nonetheless, and I could only assume that, considering her warm nature, life was still beautiful to her. With the struggles and stresses I have, sometimes it's easy to forget the small blessings of having a roof over my head, food on my table, and a family that loves me dearly. No matter how hard life may get sometimes, circumstances could always be worse. I reflect daily on the lesson I learned from that elderly woman I saw on the street that hot summer evening. There is still always a reason to be grateful.