I wish I'd thought of this sooner. I'm working backwards. We've met so many unique generous human beings on this journey that I won't be able to introduce all of them, but this and future People Are Amazing posts will give you a peek.
St. Eustacia, Lesser Antilles, West Indies
“Guess how old I am.” A daunting challenge under any circumstances, but Mr. Stanley Van Putten caught us on the breathless end of an uphill hike to St. Eustacia’s Fort Oranje. He appeared to have no upper teeth. Still, he was slim and also riding a bicycle. This was tricky. When we finally guessed the right answer, 76, Stanley also revealed that he was born on Statia and had a career on the local police force. “I have never hit anyone in my life and nobody has hit me.” For the past three decades, Stanley has distinguished himself as the island flag raiser and bell ringer (6 a.m. – noon – 6 p.m.). For his services, he has been decorated by two Dutch queens.
We accepted his invitation to escort us to the fort and pose for pictures with the bell. Stanley pointed out various parts of the fort punctuating every few minutes with the question, “What time is it?” I catch on quick. Mr. Van Putten – the bell ringing time keeper of St. Eustacia, did not have a watch. We promised to join him for the noon bell and peeled off for a quick stop in the tourism office also located within the fort grounds.
I kept a close eye on my clock so we’d have a couple of minutes to scoot across the grounds to the bell. Suddenly, it was CLANGING again and again. My phone insisted we still had four minutes. Usually “island time” works the other way around. Oh well, close enough. It was officially lunch time in Statia. Thanks, Stanley!
Luckily, just before the lunch bell, I chanced to meet Maya at her desk in the tourism office. Born in Statia, Maya lived in Daytona, Florida for nine years before her first child was diagnosed with Autism. He was two. She showed me his current picture. Glossy black hair. Pink smile. Adorable. Following her maternal instincts, Maya traded the I.E.P.’s and services of a bustling city in the States for the natural beauty and calm environment of St. Eustacia. Now, age seven, Maya’s son is thriving in the public school where he is welcomed and accepted by his peers. Maya knew. Maya invited Lily to pick a hand painted calabash ornament from the half dozen which were thumbtacked in the lintel of her office window; something to remember her by. How could we forget?
People are amazing!