I’ve been there perhaps half a dozen times. When I arrived today, I had been trying to get there for a week, but health, weather, and holidays had prevented it from happening. Today was another day of poor weather, but thankfully, it was only enroute to the airstrip, not at the airstrip, like yesterday.
I had finished unloading the airplane of the Christmas rice that was a week late. The passengers who had accompanied me on two failed attempts at flying to this airstrip had also gotten off. My seven adults and three babies who wanted to go to Nabire had all been loaded, belted in, and given the safety briefing. All I needed to do was get in and go.
That’s when the airstrip agent handed me two envelopes. They both obviously had money in them. We carry mail and envelopes of money for people all the time. I confirmed that the both had names. One did not. I asked, and the agent clarified that the one envelope was for the addressee, and the blank envelope was for “happy children.” That wasn’t really quite enough to deliver the envelope, so I asked for clarification. The envelope was for my children, so they could be happy at Christmas.
I felt like someone had just done a push over at 10,000′ and the world had dropped out from under me. What? A money present, from here, for my kids? My kids probably got in Christmas presents more cash value than most of these people would see in a month. Yet, the community had chosen to give my children a Christmas gift.
I didn’t want to take the money. But how could I refuse such generosity? To do so would shame them. To not accept would take from the little they had. I thanked the man. How could I ever repay that kind of sacrifice? I don’t know. But it’s not really about repaying is it? It’s about being generous with you have.