From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Love & Friendship

May I Help You?

Something that has always puzzled me all my life is why, when I am in special need of help, the good deed is usually done by somebody on whom I have no claim.

William Feather

We stood in the street and cried. Not great, heaving sobs, but the slow, sweaty tears of desperation. We were eighteen and crying, alone on a sidewalk only hours after arriving in Honduras, Central America. We were there to join a development project called Project Bayan as volunteers, but apparently we had the wrong number for the project headquarters because we were unable to make contact.

The massive humidity was piggybacked by an intense heat that parched our throats. Where would we find purified water in the steaming jungles of Honduras? Our vocal chords were strangled by an inability to speak Spanish. It was all we could do to stand in the street and cry.

To our left was a jumble of automotive confusion, and to our right was an open-air bakery. We didn’t notice the table of Spanish speakers commenting on our obvious plight until a man approached us.

“Hello,” he said, in perfect English.

Our tear-streaked faces stared at this unexpected friendliness.

“My name is Henry Wilkins,” he continued. “I don’t like to see people crying in my country. May I help you?”

It was three simple sentences. But it was all we needed. We poured out our dilemma. We were lost; we were exhausted; we were hungry; and we were thirsty. We didn’t know what was safe to eat or drink, and we didn’t know how to get in touch with people who seemed to exist on the other side of an inaccessible language barrier. Neither one of us, accustomed to the security of family and friends, had ever felt so alone.

And somehow, Henry Wilkins, a man who’d grown up oppressed because of the color of his skin, poverty-stricken because of the state of his country’s economy, and without stability because of the corruption of his government, took us to the supermarket and found us food. Then he took us to the café and found us water. Henry Wilkins took us to the phone and found our friends. And Henry Wilkins did this because he didn’t like to see people crying in his country.

I have been home from Honduras for over two years now, but I still think often of Henry Wilkins. I remain convinced that Henry Wilkins was an angel. I also remain convinced that Henry Wilkins taught me one of the most valuable lessons of friendship I learned during my entire, life-changing stay in Honduras. It was three simple sentences that are etched into my heart and that I intend to keep with me the rest of my life: “My name is Bobbi Smith. I don’t like to see people crying in my country. May I help you?”

Bobbi Smith

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