Five Dollars and Forever

A story comes to mind from a decade ago I was in Uganda while I worked for USAID. I was checking out of my hotel and in the process of carrying my bags to the check out desk, a housekeeper took one of them from me to carry. The problem in my mind was that the housekeeper was female. I didn’t feel very chivalrous about having allowed a girl to carry my bag, and when we arrived at the counter (a few steps later), I reached into my bag to try to find a tip. The problem was that I had just changed my dollars into Uganda Shillings and so my smallest bill was 10,000 shillings, or $5 USD.

I gave her the bill. Her reaction? She gasped. She gasped and showed the bill to the person behind the desk. I did the math and realized that $5 was about a day’s wages for the average Ugandan. I checked back into that hotel later in the week and found myself receiving exceptional service from all employees.

But the story doesn’t end there. Weeks after returning to the States, I received an email from the housekeeper (how she got my address, I don’t know). She wrote, “a stay has 5 ends, a square has 4 ends, a triangle has 3 ends, a line has 2 ends, life has 1 end, but our friendship has no end.

How do you reply to that?