I spent the last week in upper New York and Manhattan. What a truly wonderful place to be for many reasons! I did so many things, went to countless places, and loved every minute of it, but one special experience stands out above all the rest. I'd walked into the Guggenheim Museum, late afternoon. There is a small fountain in the generic, contemporary shape of a fish, and as I am always wont to do, I stopped there to toss in pennies and make a wish for myself and two people who were not with me in person, but are always with me in spirit.
As I was standing there, taking my time and giving careful consideration and thought to my purpose, I could feel that I was being watched, and after tossing in the last penny, I looked to my side and there were three lovely young girls of Asian origin; I'd venture an educated guess at Korean, who were watching me very intently. I knew they were trying to ascertain the scene before them, staring in fascination while trying not to be invasive.
I smiled widely at them to let them know they were welcome to communicate, if they wanted to. One of them stepped forward bravely as the other two watched with wide eyes and shy smiles. She pointed toward the fountain and asked in her soft, broken English, "What is it?".
I knew she meant, 'What are you doing? What is the purpose of this custom?'
I explained, "I'm making a wish. I throw in the penny and make a wish that I would like to see come true." The young ladies stared silently and I knew the word 'wish' did not register with them. There was another way to explain.
"It is a hope; a prayer. To hope for something; a job, health, love, luck, anything you want. A prayer for these things." At this explanation of 'prayer', all the light bulbs above their heads flashed on and they became delighted that they understood it finally... a simple and universal concept... a sacrifice for a prayer or hope... pennies for wishes.
They got it. They were very happy.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out two dimes and a nickel, and handed them each a coin, and gestured to the fountain. They went through a quick array of emotion; surprise, honor and humbleness, thankfulness, and then it gave way to serious contemplative prayer. Amidst bowing lowly, smiling, and thanking me, they lined up shoulder to shoulder, all three folded their hands; coins in palm, prayed earnestly and one by one opened their eyes and tossed their coins into the fountain.
I watched with absolute pleasure. It brings me such happiness to create bonds with people; to teach and learn, to share joys and break down barriers and this was a very special one. The language challenge was gone. The opportunity to share with each other created a memorable experience for all, and it was serenely sweet to watch them all partake in this simple, heartfelt custom that they knew in a different way. They turned to me, bowing, grinning, giddy with delight and I offered to use their camera to take a photo of them in front of the fountain, but they all three said no, they wanted a photo of me with them and I complied. We got an image of the four of us together, and I had them make one with my camera, and then they all hugged me tightly and went on their way. What a truly wonderful blessing to be able to trade a few coins for this priceless memory. It was the best part of the trip.