阅读与作文(英语初中版) 2021年3期

I was doing a big clean-up recently and my kids were helping. As he rummaged through boxes and bags, one of my sons came across a knotted handkerchief with an old dark brown coin nestled inside.“Mum, can I have this? Can I play with this in my cash register?” he asked. I took one look and was immediately transported to another time. “You can play with all your coins, but not this one,” I said slowly.“This ones special. I will never again see the woman who gave this to me.” I fingered the coin gently. “This coin is worth much more than its monetary value.”

My son looked at me strangely and I explained. In 1991, I had spent five months in a bleak African country, Niger, ravaged by sandstorms and blistering heat. There were many things I found difficult about this place—the climate and beggars were my biggest and most constant gripes. Street urchins would continually thrust their hands into your face, shouting “Cadeau! Cadeau!” (gift) in French, the former colonial tongue. After Id finished my nursing stint there, a friend and I headed for neighbouring Burkina Faso to work at a health clinic. “Its much greener in Burkina. Even the Coke tastes better,” the locals assured us.

Arriving by taxi at our destination in Burkina, we began to unload. I had a large backpack and a smaller daypack. With my daypack wedged between my legs, I reached for my larger piece of luggage when, out of the darkness, a motorbike with two men approached slowly. Without warning, one of the men grabbed my daypack as the motorbike swept close by. Within seconds, the pair were out of sight, swallowed up by the night.

The bag had my passport, money, traveller cheques, camera, an airline ticket and other paraphernalia quite precious to me. I was in deep trouble. And the nearest Australian consulate was in Ethiopia. In the weeks that followed, I zealously guarded the rest of my valuables and regarded all locals with suspicion. I endured interrogations by the local authorities with thinly veiled frustration. All I wanted was to leave this hellhole. Then, walking through Burkinas streets one day, I was accosted by a wiry old woman who thrust her hand in my face. “Cadeau! Cadeau!” she cried. Id had enough. I was sick and tired of the country: its poverty and corruption, its thieves, its inefficiency, the heat, the dust and its time-wasting officials. I told her firmly in French, “I have no ‘cadeau. I have no money. A thief stole all my money two weeks ago and now I cant get out of your country. I cannot give you anything.”The beggar woman listened attentively and pondered my words. Then her face crumpled into a toothless grin as she reached into the folds of her dress.

“Then I will give you a cadeau,” she announced. Kindly, she placed an old, dark brown coin in my palm. I looked at it in shock. It was a minuscule amount of money—but for this woman, the coin represented a meal. In that moment, I felt the shame of affluence and the humility of charity. She had given me a gift disproportionate to anything that I had ever donated. In the midst of her poverty, she was able to give me something priceless. I saw then the unexpected beauty of the people of Burkina Faso—and appreciated profoundly the quiet dignity of the poor. Humbled by the womans unconditional gift, I hope never to part with the coin she gave me. With one small token, she turned my perceptions upside down.

最近,我在做家庭大扫除,我的孩子们在帮忙。我其中一个儿子翻箱倒柜时,发现了一条打着结的手帕,里面装着一个深棕色的旧硬币。“妈妈,这个可以给我吗?我可以用这个玩收银机吗?”他问道。我看了一眼,心神旋即飘到另一个时空。“你可以玩你所有的硬币,但这个不行,”我慢慢地说道。“这枚硬币很特别。我不会再看到那个送我硬币的女人。” 我轻触这枚硬币。“这硬币的价值远远超过它的面值。”

我儿子奇怪地看着我,我向他解释这是怎么一回事。1991年,我在尼日尔度过了五个月,尼日尔是个荒凉的非洲国家,饱受沙尘暴与酷热的侵袭。这个地方的很多东西我都感觉难以适应——气候和乞丐是最让我感到困扰的。街上的小孩会不停地把手伸到你的脸上,喊着“卡豆!卡豆!”“卡豆”在法语里是 “礼物”的意思,法语是尼日尔前殖民者的语言。我完成了在尼日尔的护理工作后,便和一个朋友前往附近的布基纳法索的一个保健所工作。“布基纳的绿化要好多了,就连这里的可乐都更好喝,”当地人向我们保证。