Our Heart For You: A Beautiful Coincidence in Bali

The man sat hunched over, with sunken cheeks, and spindly legs. As we walked along one of Ubud’s main streets, his empty stare, meek mumbling and outstretched hand caught our gaze. Our hearts sank.

I have seen many people begging worldwide, but something told Shawn and me that this old man was greatly in need.

Though we had a tourist destination to which we were heading, we unconsciously tossed the plans aside. We were determined to brighten this elderly man’s day in some way.

Other tourists and locals hurried by. Most of them did not make eye contact with the man.

Heading to a padang (traditional fast food restaurant) across the street, we asked a group of Balinese youngsters if it would be okay to help the man. They confirmed that we could buy him some food.

For 9,000 rupiah – just about $1 – we purchased some local nourishment: an egg and corn fritter, green beans, tofu and white rice. We were not sure what kind of beverage to get the man, and decided that the food alone would likely be greatly appreciated.

With the banana leaf and brown paper-wrapped food package in hand, we returned to the street corner where the man was sitting. Another tourist was approaching him from the opposite direction. In her hand was a beverage.

It was magical timing – a moment at which I felt as though the Balinese spirits were working to bring three very-fortunate visitors and a Balinese man together. I instantly developed goose bumps and nearly shed a happy tear.

Our actions couldn’t have been better choreographed with the woman, who handed the man the beverage just as we gave him the package of food.

At first, the man look surprised. Then, a twinkle developed in his eyes. A wide, toothless smile blossomed on his gaunt face.

We can not do great things on this earth.

We can only do small things with great love.

-Mother Theresa

We felt an instant bond with the German female tourist, given our shared experience. We briefly interacted with her and she recommended that we eat at a warung (a traditional Balinese restaurant) just around the corner.

With our $5.00 meal before us, the waitress at the family-owned restaurant commented on the rice on my plate. It was formed in the shape of a heart. “Our heart for you,” she said.

Since the moment with the man had been so touching, I decided that I must try to capture the kind gentleman on film.

Returning to the street corner where our paths crossed, I was surprised to see that it was empty. Up a nearby, hilly street, I saw the man slowly walking. He was hunched over, with his hand neatly tucked behind him. He was carefully cradling the food package in his hand.

As I passed him, I showed him the camera and ‘asked’ if it would be okay to snap his image. His smile was my go-ahead to do so.

As we bid farewell, he turned a corner, going to a small home complex populated with a pair of roosters. I hope that he was going to enjoy an early dinner.

It was a small gesture, but one done with love. Happy Thanksgiving.

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

21 thoughts on “Our Heart For You: A Beautiful Coincidence in Bali

    1. Sarah, glad the story ended your day on a positive note! Thanks also for your Turkey Day wishes. We had a non-traditional holiday here, but was it ever delightful — the best Mexican food I’ve ever dined upon. Funny that I had to come all the way to Indonesia to find it!

    1. Hello Marc – I agree! Glad you categorized my story as one that would fit into such a genre. :) Look forward to reading through your book. Hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  1. Great ..
    It’s heart touching …
    My sincere Thanksgiving to you ….
    We all need to keep this up forever …..
    Warm regards

    1. Thank you Subhash, for your comment, as well as for your thoughtful Thanksgiving wishes. You mentioned that we should all “keep this up.” I commented to my husband the other day that if all the visitors to Bali (or any place in the world) set aside just $1 from their mega-shopping experiences, think of all the good they could do! There are so many causes here – animal foundations, nonprofits for people with physical disabilities, etc. Must say that there’s something extra special about Bali that puts one in a spiritual frame of mind, too.

      All the best to you as well!

  2. Oh Trish, what a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing your travel adventures with us. I am sure your heart will continue to touch everyone you meet.

    1. Hi Kel, so nice to hear from you! Thanks for dropping in and for leaving such a heartfelt comment. :-) As you know, it’s the special people one meets along the way that makes traveling so special.

      I’m so happy to see that you’re loving life in Alaska. I will be in touch via email soon once we get settled in at our new destination. We’re in Kuala Lumpur now and about ready to head south to a quieter part of Malaysia. Here come some long bus rides!

    1. Nurul, our 3 weeks in Bali offered some of the highlights of our time in Asia. I do hope we’ll get the chance to visit more of Indonesia’s islands; in which part of the country do you call home?

      1. With so many islands, I think we could explore Indonesia for a lifetime, Nurul. :) Thank you for the kind offer. It sounds as though you did noble work following the tsunami. Are you working as an architect now, and if so, in what part of the world?

      2. Indeed, Tricia. Even there is only few part of Indonesia that I’ve visited. I was architect, but nowadays, I mostly work in supervising and monitoring for construction works in DR Congo.

      3. How long have you been in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? I’ve only been to northern Africa (Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt) and South Africa, but would be curious to see more of the continent.

      4. I have been here for 5 years, Tricia. Northern Africa is quite different with other African countries, which are more similar to Arabian countries. So far, I just visited Morocco and Egypt. South Africa is more like Europe, especially Cape Town. Other African countries are rich with beauty of nature. If you have a chance, visit them someday, and you will love it. By the way, you travel a lot. I read you already visited 60 countries. I am so amazed :-)

      5. Nurul, ah – Cape Town is a place I’ve long wanted to see. I did greatly enjoy my time in Johannesburg, mostly because I met such kind people who took me “under their wings” and went out of their way to extend the warmest of hospitality. And yes, I’m quite fortunate to have been to so many corners of the world. As you can probably attest though – it’s the interactions with the people in those places that made the visits special and memorable. How long have you been working abroad?

      6. I have been working in Congo for 5 years, Tricia. It’s my first abroad working experiences. i wish it will continue to other places in the world since I love to meet new people, learn their culture and see how they do live.

      7. Working abroad does offer powerful learning and cultural-exchange opportunities, Nurul. Are there other countries that are ‘on your radar’ to perhaps work in someday?

      8. I still can’t predict where I’m going after this Tricia. But I’m looking forward to get something out of Africa to have another experiences in life :-)

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