Hello and good day!
A caravan of white station wagon taxis and motorcycles, each motorcycle carrying two riders, turns off a rustic jungle dirt road onto a bumpy rock-strewn driveway. On the driveway, the vehicles park and passengers deboard.
The visitors traveling inside the taxis are internationally diverse, coming from France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the United States.
The motorcycle riders are from the zone. One is the owner of the cacao farm the caravan has just come upon. The others are brothers and cousins of the farm owner. The farm owner waves the large group towards his long, single story, adobe brick house that is painted white.
Running along the entire length of the entrance side of the house, there is a grey concrete porch. From the porch, the view is purely a dense thicket of fruit trees and farm animals rooting around on the farm floor.
The group pauses on the porch to drink in the landscape.
Up high, growing from the branches of tall trees, they see mangos, bananas, coconuts, zapotes, starfruit, and acidic yellow oranges. Of middle height are mature cacao trees loaded down with yellow, football sized and shaped, ridged, pods. The cacao tree branches are long and strong and stretch among the middle trunks of taller trees.
Nearer to the ground, short green leafed coffee bushes with small bright red cherries hanging from their thin branches, sprout up from black soil in long, well organized rows. Ducks, geese, chickens, piglets, turkeys, kittens, and dogs amble over to the porch where the group is standing, to smell the newcomers and pitifully beg for scraps of food.
"Let's go in! My mother has prepared lunch!" shouts the farm owner.
An English-speaking friend who has come along translates for the group, and group members walk towards an open door. In the doorway is a stout, charming woman, who smiles freely and who has a silver cap on one of her front teeth.
The cap sparkles when the sun hits it squarely.
The mother shakes the hand of each visitor as they walk into the home and pulls each down to her height so that she can give them a hello kiss on the cheek, as is customary. After the visitors, the siblings and cousins enter.
And finally, her son, the farm owner comes through. But before he can enter, the mother grabs his arm and pulls him back onto the porch. The animals are still out there, attempting to scavenge in the dirt. It is hot and the terrible afternoon sun is shining straight down on the mother and son.
The mother reaches up and puts her hands onto either side of her grown son's face.
"I can't believe you've brought these people from all over the world. Nobody thought you could do it. But you proved them wrong.
I am so, so proud of you," says the mother, with tears of pride watering in her eyes. The son nods. He is a serious man who rarely smiles. But just now he can't fight back the smile that is forming on his mouth.
"Thank you, mom. Let's serve lunch," says the cacao farmer.
A mother and her 14-year-old son walk into a Greek cafe located on the downtown strip of a seedy little beach town. The boy is a ragamuffin, wearing pants three sizes too baggy, his belt feebly holding up the waist, which has been intentionally placed three quarters of the way down the boy's buttocks. Thankfully his shirt is also three times too big, otherwise his underwear would be on full display.
A hostess approaches the duo. "Table for two?" asks the hostess. "Yes please," says the boy with a strong urban twang. "Right this way sugar," says the hostess. The mother and her son take their seats and review their menus. After a moment, the boy asks his mother what she plans to order and if she would like anything to drink.
When the waitress arrives, she asks the diners what they'd like to have.
"My mom would like to have a Greek salad please, and a glass of white wine if that is possible. I'd like a gyro please and I'll be perfectly happy with water. Thank you very, very much," says the boy. The waitress is taken aback and gives the mother an impressed look.
Throughout the meal, the boy demonstrates impeccable manners, which belie his extreme rough around the edge's appearance. When the check comes, the boy takes out his wallet and places a bill into the plastic tray. He is treating.
Finally, the waitress just can't take it anymore. She has to say something. "Your son is just about the politest young man I've ever seen in my entire life. You are doing a good job mama," says the waitress.
The mother sits up with her back very straight and her chin in the air, a noble and satisfied look on her face. "Thank you. He can be a very good kid when he wants to be," says the mother.
Outside, the mother hugs her son and thanks him for the meal. "You made me look good in there, son. Do more of that please," says the mom.
"I'll try mom," says the son.
There are many ethical systems available to choose from. Some are based on God and divine revelation. Some are utilitarian and their goal is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, even if it means sacrificing the wellbeing of minorities. Some are grounded in what is called natural law, attempted logical deductions from the nature of human relations that are supposed to help us distinguish between right and wrong.
As a grown man looking back, if I could offer a simple ethical system to my younger self, it would be as follows.
Act in a way that makes your mother proud.
Assuming you have a good mom, who takes pride in the right kinds of things, this is a simple litmus test for any action.
Will this make my mother proud?
Or will it make her ashamed?
Only move forward when the answer is yes to the former and no to the latter.
So many of my best memories are of the times when my mother got a dignified, satisfied, noble, proud look on her face because she approved of and appreciated something I'd done.
I only wish I'd known then what I know now. I'd have strived for a lot more of those moments.
By the way, the photo is of the cacao farm mother I described at the beginning.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
Follow us on Instagram - @fortunatonochocolate