As I write this I am sitting on a comfortable bed inside a rented house in the small Costa Rican town of Playa de Carillo. Howler monkeys are, well, howling from nearby tress. A bat keeps squawking from outside our window. Today, the family and I spent many of hour hours hopping through waves, walking along the beautiful coastline, embracing one of the world’s most beautiful places.
Yet of all the things I’ve experienced in Costa Rica, the singular thing that will stick with me is Luz.
She is 48-years old; the cook and housekeeper at the place we’re staying. Luz and her husband, Gilbert, live in an adjacent house that has two rooms—a bedroom/kitchen combo, and a bathroom. Neither one speaks an ounce of English; neither one has ever flown on a plane or left Costa Rica. When I asked how many vacations she’s taken, Luz said, matter of factly, “Nada.” None.
Luz and Gilbert work six days a week, 52 weeks a year. They take off Sundays, which they use to attend Church and spend time with their two children. Gilbert is a nice guy—quiet, a bit guarded and reserved. He looks down a lot, and speaks mostly when spoken to.
Luz, on the other hand, lives up to her name. She is a light.
Luz told me she works, lives, breathes solely for her children. She only attended school through the sixth grade, and has worked in hotels and homes ever since. She’s poor, and admits such, but seems neither unhappy nor remorseful. She’s the kind of person who reminds you (and most all of us need reminding) that materialism is nonsense. That the number of cars and toys and homes you have has nothing to do with contentment. Luz wants for neither a BMW nor a mansion; doesn’t care about not owning a computer or knowing who’s playing who in the next big movie. She doesn’t drive, and doesn’t care. She doesn’t travel, and doesn’t care. She likes good conversation, friendly smiles, time with her family.
When I first got here, I spoke with Luz and ignorantly thought, “How sad—so much in the world, so little she’ll get to see.” That, however, is the thinking of an arrogant jerk. Here is a woman who has everything—love, heart, compassion—without having anything much at all.
I don’t feel bad for Luz.
If anything, I envy her.