September 2005-It was mid-afternoon on an excruciatingly hot day in the Valley of The Kings, Egypt. I was spending a few days on a Nile cruise, and each day the boat would stop for an excursion of some type. On this particular day our group boarded a shuttle van to view some pyramids and tour an alabaster factory. The alabaster factory was the last stop of the day. The intense heat of the Saharan September could only be described as oppressive. The heat came from above and seemed to come from below as well. It just bounced off the sandy Sahara with no reprieve in sight.
After several exhausting, albeit exhilarating, hours of fantastic ancient Egypt, I saw a familiar and wonderful sight. Tucked away in the corner of the alabaster factory was my old friend, Coca-Cola. There she was, a large, beautiful, red Coke machine, and I wasted no time procuring myself a cold one! I took my seat on the shuttle van, sipping my Coke, reading a travel guide and waiting for fellow passengers to take their seats. As the van was about to set off for the cruise ship, I asked the driver to give me a moment to step outside to throw away my can. The driver gingerly took the can out of my hand and shook it lightly. There was just a small bit of soda in the bottom of the can that by then had grown warm and rather flat. He said, “No, don’t throw it away, give it to them.” With that, he gestured outside to a group of five small Egyptian children playing in the dusty heat just beyond the van. I stared in complete shock as he opened the door and handed the can to one of the children. I watched, horrified as they fought over the hot flat remnants of my Coke.
I am no Marie Antoinette and this was not to be a “let them eat cake” moment. I grabbed my bag and told the driver that he would have to give me five minutes.
I went straight to the Coke machine and prayed there would be five cans within it. Shortly I emerged with a fresh full can of coke for each child. It was their turn to be stunned. Two different tour groups exploded in applause as five little children hugged my legs, danced around me, and chanted something in Arabic. I later learned that the children were saying in Arabic that I must be very wealthy to be able to give them each their very own drink. Nearly a hundred British, American, and German tourists clapped, photographed, and even cried as I opened each child’s Coke and handed it to them.
I wiped my eyes and climbed on board the van taking the very back seat so I could watch them in the distance as we drove away. What I saw were five dusty and happy children dancing about in the sand proudly turning up their Coke cans. What I felt was tremendous wealth. Not the kind they thought I had, but the kind you get from sharing a little something of yourself to give someone else some happiness.
To be sure, an ice-cold Coca-Cola is more special for me these days than it used to be.
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