He was wizened, old and maybe wise. We were entering a restaurant and he stood just outside the door plying his wares to tourists. In each hand he held a simple angel, wooden, carved, unfinished, raw. I did not appreciate its value at the time because we had been surrounded by vendors plying colorful objects d’art—masks and flutes and shawls and animals—rainbows of reds and blues and greens and yellows. And this angel was plain.
“No gracias” as I moved on and into the restaurant anticipating our final dinner as a team with Diego and Carlos, our guides and now companions.
We sat at a long table accommodating over a dozen sharing wine and stories when he suddenly stood across from me, pleading to buy one of his angels.
“Quantos,” I asked.
“Veinte y cinco,” the angel in his outstretched hand so I could see it more closely.
“Cambio,” as I handed him trenta quetzal.
He sat the angel on the table before us and motioned with his hand over his mouth, “cena,” dinner.
You are supposed to barter in this transaction—he says 25 and I should say 15 and then we agree on 20 quetzal. I didn’t barter and, at the time, felt cheated yet I allowed him to “keep the change.” He left with his trenta quetzal, all of $4 value American.
The next day I looked for him as we walked the streets of Antigua. I had realized that the angel was my most precious purchase during our mission Guatemala with Habitat for Humanity. I never saw him again nor were similar angels anywhere to be seen—only those objects d’art in rainbows of colors that tourists buy, take home to give as a memento or to sit on a shelf, hang on a wall, hide in a drawer, gather dust.
This angel is more. It sits in our kitchen and I see it every day reminding me of the angel standing by the shepherds. “Do not be afraid: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people.”
Reminding me of that wizened old man motioning with his hand—“cena.”
Merry Christmas my friends.
8 And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. 9 And an angel of the Lord stood by them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid.10 And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: 11 for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior who is the Christ the Lord. 12 And this is the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.