I rented a bike to visit the rice fields scattered around Ubud, the capital city of Bali, one of the most famous islands in Indonesia. I lost myself in a village little known to foreigners and rode quietly in snake-like streets that separated the rice fields from each other. The green and quiet was all around, embellished by the almost discrete movements of farmers who were cultivating their rice. I then headed for the famous rice terraces. However, while on the way I had the misfortune to have a problem with my bike. Where the chain was supposed to roll smoothly, it was now stuck between one of the rear wheel gears. As I am not very familiar with bike mechanics, I started looking for help. I stopped at a department store that sold carving wood items. I saw a child of about ten years old and he quickly realized that I had a problem with the bike. He called his brother, who was probably between the ages of 14 and 16 years, in order to help me. Indeed, his brother arrived, and after fifteen minutes of great effort and with the help of a friend, he managed to free the gear.
The boy, named Christophe, was quite happy and even proud to have helped me. I asked him if he wanted money and he said ‘no’. When I insisted, he kept refusing any money, and instead, we took a selfie together. I was going back, quite pleased and impressed with this young man, as I heard his mother shout something to him from the garage of their house. I retraced my steps and Christophe came back and said ‘Money’.
I did not understand at the time; I spoke to his mother believing she invited me to her house: ‘Did you invite me in?’ I asked in English. ‘No, no’, she answered, ‘money!’. For a moment, I stood stunned, frozen in place. This mom taught her son to do nothing for free. I gave him 3,000 rupiahs, the equivalent of 20 USD cents, nothing of value. She took the whole lot and went happily, without even asking me for more. It made me sick at heart, I cannot explain why exactly. Maybe it was because I saw a mom of a rich family (in fact the shop belonged to the father of the son – that’s what Christophe told me – and they lived in the house above the shop) who taught her son to give only if he receives something materialistic in return. It is as if she had killed a part of her son’s humanity.