Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Beignets kick off Mardi Gras celebration

Since the late 1800s, Fat Tuesday has kicked off Mardi Gras in such places as New Orleans, a ritual to coincide with the Christian celebration of Lent (Ash Wednesday is Feb. 22 this year), when penance is given over 40 days. In other words, you gorge yourself with good food before fasting.

In honor of Mardi Gras, I’m teaching a Creole cooking class on Sunday in San Francisco through Lifecrowd (https://www.lifecrowd.com/activity/celebrate-mardi-gras-with-creole-cuisine), then search in San Francisco). I spent several days coming up with the following menu:

  • Mint juleps
  • Creole-spiced Crab Dip
  • Chicken and sausage gumbo
  • White rice
  • Bread pudding with a butterscotch sauce

The menu was inspired by two missions trips I’ve made, one to rural Louisiana in 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita and the other to Haiti in 2010 after an earthquake devastated the nation. I learned how to make gumbo from a southern belle at a country hunting lodge (gator jaws everywhere). She had learned how to make gumbo from her mother and had never written down the recipe before graciously giving it to me. Bread pudding is probably my favorite dessert to make.

Gumbo and bread pudding are staples to Creole cooking. During Mardi Gras, the Acadians of the plains would ride on horseback from house to house collecting items for the community stew in town. Stale bread is used in bread pudding recipes to fortify the custard, because wasting food is not an option.

When I was searching through my recipes, I stumbled upon Beignets (pronounced ben-yahs), a fancy French doughnut. I had to try it. My first attempts – I topped them with a raspberry sauce – was so delicious, my wife ordered me to not make them very often. They are, after all, just a little fattening.

Tuesday was Fat Tuesday, so I got up early with my leftover dough and made Beignets for the teachers at the school in Walnut Creek at which I’m doing my student teaching this spring. They loved them as much as my wife.

One teacher – claiming to be on a strict calorie count – wanted to know how many calories a single Beignet had, so she looked it up online. Each one has … oh, you don’t want to know that fact.

Now, I must decide whether to include bread pudding or Beignets to my cooking class on Sunday. The only way to find out is to sign up and show up. For $25, you get to eat what you cook.

Here’s the recipe I used for Beignets, which I halved.


Prep time: 15 minutes. Total time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 18-20


  • 3/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1/8 cup shortening or lard
  • Oil, for deep-frying
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar


Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt, vanilla, and evaporated milk together. Mix egg mixture to the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, measure out the bread flour. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the shortening and continue to stir while adding the remaining flour. Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Put dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours. The ideal rising temperature is between 70 and 72 degrees.

Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 325 degrees F.

Add the confectioners' sugar to a paper or plastic bag and set aside.

Roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch thickness and cut into 1 1/2-inch squares. Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden color. (Often, the dough flips itself when it’s done.) After beignets are fried, drain them for a few seconds on paper towels, and then toss them into the bag of confectioners' sugar. Hold bag closed and shake to coat evenly.

Serve warm.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What is the value of life?

What is the value of life? Can you put a price tag on it? Who determines the value? It all depends on who you talk to.

On Saturday, my wife, Susan, and I participated in the Walk for Life Walk in San Francisco, along with 40,000 other pro-lifers and perhaps 200 pro-choice advocates. On the pro-life side, every life, from the tiny fetus just a few days old to the elderly on their death beds, is worth fighting for. The pro-choice side, too, fights just as hard for the right to snuff out life, in the name of a woman’s choice. The latter is a billion-dollar industry that is dependent on abortion remaining legal in this country.

The abortion issue is easily the most divisive issue in America today. Although abortion is still legal in this country, its supporters are dwindling. Still, the mainstream media supports the pro-choice view. Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle reported the walk as a non-event, using only a photo and caption on page C9. Forty thousand pro-lifers became “thousands of anti-abortion rights advocates” and “abortion foes.” The pro-choice crowd was termed “a smaller group of abortion rights advocates.” Note the difference in terms. The yellers and screamers are abortion “advocates.” The peaceful pro-lifers are “abortion foes.”

As we walked along the Embarcadero slowly and peacefully, the abortion rights people yelled and screamed vile things at us, as though we were murders or thieves. My wife and I laughed at a few of the signs, such as “Don’t hang your rosaries on my ovaries” (The Catholic Church is a big supporter of the march.) and “Don’t use your theology on my biology.” Pro-life signs were tame by comparison. “Defend Life” and “Women deserve better than abortion” signs were handed out by the hundreds.

One side of the argument clings 40-year-old methods and ideology, while the other gravitates toward the sanctity of life and an unusual partner – science. Several of the signs I saw intimated that we would revert to the dark ages and usage of coat hangers in dark allies if abortion were made illegal again. Please. Pro-lifers say the biggest change in the argument is today’s use of sonograms. A woman who is pregnant can see that there is a living, growing being that has a heartbeat and moves inside her tummy. The truth is telling.

That is the difference maker in today’s argument, and it’s a valid one. That’s why the key to issue is today’s youth. Today’s teenagers are changing the landscape for the abortion battle, because they are smart enough to know there is something alive inside them when they view a sonogram. If they want, they can even get a DVD with the baby’s movement on it and take it home. So much for the pro-choice argument that a fetus isn’t alive until it comes of the mother’s womb. Today’s teenagers are deciding for themselves and they are choosing life.

I heard the argument that a fetus wasn’t alive on Saturday from a young man named Connor, clearly a staunch pro-choice supporter. For maybe 15 minutes, I did my best to engage Connor, a young man in his early 20s with strong views. He was easy to spot in the crowd. He was no more than 5 feet, 4 inches tall, with red and blue streaks in his hair. Connor listening to my points without yelling and screaming because I was calm and collected. I think he appreciated that I didn’t preach at him. I asked him questions and listened to his responses.

At one point, I asked Connor how he would feel if his mother had chosen to abort him. His response threw me.

“I probably would have been better off. I’ve had a hard life. My mom and dad probably shouldn’t have had me.”

“You do realize that you wouldn’t be here if your mom had chosen to abort you,” I told him. He just shrugged his shoulders.

To me, that summarizes the position of the pro-choice movement in America today. Pro-choice supporters do not value life. I tried to assure Connor that God loved him and that his life had purpose and meaning, even if he didn’t see any now. Whenever I talked about God’s love, Connor tried to turn the conversation to things that Christians did thousands of years ago, such as the crusades. He asked if God was so loving, why are there so many starving children in places such as Africa.

“Because there is evil in the world,” I told him. “Evil people don’t care if people starve to death or are aborted at the hands of a skilled doctor. Money is usually at the root of evil people. On the other hand, I told him, lots of Christians are fighting for the rights of unborn babies here in America and for starving children in Africa.”

Connor tried telling me that there were no emotional repercussions from women having abortions. I told Connor my reasons for being a pro-life supporter and that I had worked with hundreds of poor single moms who chose to have their babies and raise them. They were happy with their choice. I told him I had counseled hundreds of women who felt tremendous guilt and shame from having abortions and that many women are haunted for a lifetime by their “choice” to abort.

Yet, God still reaches out to those who chose to abort their babies, in their depression and grief. That was the message of many of the speakers at Saturday’s rally. One African American told the crowd she had chosen to abort three children. Eventually, she found forgiveness in the words of a Catholic priest, who helped her find redemption in her life by giving names to the three aborted fetuses. I hoped Connor was listening to the woman’s pain. God still loved that woman, even after she had aborted three of her babies.

Before we parted, I tried to pray with Connor, but as he was walking away, he said, “Please, don’t pray for me.” Then he was gone. By the way, Connor claims to have read the Bible three times, and he, indeed, knew what the Bible said about many topics. Maybe Connor is angry at God and wants to continue to be angry at him. Maybe he blames God for his spot in life. I suspect it’s because he’s never really felt God’s love.

I’m sorry, Connor, but I cannot oblige your request. As I walked on Saturday, my conversation with him kept running through my mind. Since Saturday, I have prayed for him several times, coming to tears on almost every occasion. I prayed that Connor would find someone else to talk to, someone who would listen to his pain and reassure him of God’s love for him.

People such as Connor don’t believe they are worth being praying over because their life has no meaning, no purpose. That’s why we must continue to pray for the lost we meet. Connor may not value his life, but God does. Every life is precious in God’s eyes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Making Tamales Should Be a Group Effort

Whenever people get together to make tamales, fun and laughter are sure to follow. Both were prominent on Sunday night when my LIFE group merged with a Latin women’s LIFE group from my church to make tamales at the home of Eren and her mother, Olga.

Eren is the common denominator for both groups. She, Olga and friend Judy attend the same group on Wednesday night as my wife and I, in the home of Fair Oaks Baptist Church pastor Steve McCoy and his wife, Andrea. We’re all sort of new to the church, and Steve and Andrea recruit leaders by way of their home fellowship studies.

During one of our Wednesday night meetings, the Latinas and I started talking about Mexican food. (Eren and Olga are from Mexico and Judy is from Guatemala.) Before you know it, we were planning a get-together to make tamales. Everyone else in the group was like, “Yeah, we’ll come” – and eat!

Making tamales is a natural in a group setting. One of the traditions in Latin countries is for families and friends to get together on Christmas eve and make tamales, eat them for a late supper, then go to midnight Mass, stuffed.

Easily, there is room for 7 to 8 stations. People talk, laugh and work side by side for hours while making these tasty treats. In Central and South America, tamales are made differently in virtually every country. Some are made with corn husks, whereas banana leaves are more prominent farther south.

On Sunday, Mexico (Eren, Olga and Alicia), Guatemala (Judy) and Colombia (Lucia, Carmen and Dora) were represented, as well as a few gringo hangers on from Los Ustados Unidos. The Latin Ladies meet Friday night in Eren and Olga’s house and study the Bible together, sometimes in English, sometimes in Espanol.

Me? I’m kind of a cross-over between gringo and Mexican. I grew up on the border of Mexico and love the culture and the cuisine, which I have studied – in the kitchen and in word – intently over the years. When I started catering in 2004, tamales were my specialty. In 2005, I won a prize for my mushroom tamales at the San Jose Tamale Festival, against dozens of other competitors.

And, yet, it’s been three years since I last made tamales, with Susan. Making tamales is time consuming and a lot of hard work. When I pitched the idea to Eren, she readily agreed to host it.

Sunday afternoon, I was slaving away in the kitchen, making adobo (red chile salsa) and my three-mushroom (button, Shiitake, and portobello) concoction. Eren had prepared chicken, roast pork in adobo and cheese and jalapenos, so we had four different types of mushrooms to make – and eat.

Sue and I were the last to arrive a little after 4 p.m. All the ladies were eager to make tamales. My wife had an interesting observation. Why weren’t the Latin ladies teaching us how to make tamales? The answer is because most of them had never made tamales.

Eren and I traded off sharing a few secrets, then we got started. Eren had an oblong table set up in her kitchen covered with a plastic table cloth – when you’re done, you just throw the dirty thing away.

I gave a quick demonstration on how to make the little treasures, then I got out of the way and let them have fun. When they made a mistake, I stepped in to correct them. We had tall ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones and every combination thereof. Some were pretty; some were kind of hideous. Some had blogs of masa, and others were paper thin. Who cares? All that matters is what they taste like.

The Latin ladies – along with Andrea and Earlene (see Dec. 11 post) dived right in. There was much cackling – I mean talking – going on while they worked. The tamales are fitted into a steamer when they’re done for a 75-minute wet sauna. Eren took care of boiling the water, while I prepared the masa (corn meal, mixed with salt, baking powder, lard and chicken stock). Eren had soaked the corn husks in boiling water for an hour before we arrived.

Every 20 minutes or so, a new pot was boiling. Occasionally, we’d have the ladies switch positions and learn a new task. At one point, I led the group in singing the famous Latin song “Cielito Lindo.” The refrain goes “Ay, ay, ay, ay. Canta y no llores.” As soon as I sang those lines, the Latin ladies jumped in and sang. When they finished, they all laughed heartily. Later, I changed up the tune a little and sang “Ay, ay, ay ay. I am the Frito Bandito” and my wife took it from there with a solo. “I love Fritos Corn Chips, I’ll get them from you.” It was hilarious.

By the time we finished all four types of tamales, the first, Eren’s roast pork, were done. Everybody who came brought a side dish, and we had a nifty little potluck happening by 7 p.m.

We all sat around the table chatting. The gringos asked questions about life in Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia and what brought them to the United States. We asked about the foods they grew up with. Life sharing was going on.

That is what good food should do. Good things happen when food and people collide. That combination brings conversation and laughter, two essentials for budding friendships. As you talk, you get to know each other. A get-together becomes a celebration. When you're done, share the extras with friends and family, because Christmas is about giving and sharing with others.

Caption: Making tamales in group settings is a Latin tradition, especially on Christmas eve. Here, I gave a quick demonstration to Eren (middle) and my pastor's wife, Andrea.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Friendship Based on Love of Food

My grandmother canned various fruits and vegetables from her vast garden, and she taught my mom how to can. My mom didn’t have any daughters to pass on the art of canning, and, even though I’m a pretty good cook, my mom did not teach me how to can. (Don’t worry; Mom; I’m not mad.)

Frankly, I never thought twice about learning how to can until I went to Haiti in August and began planning a garden project at the orphanage my church is rebuilding in Leogane. Canning, as my vision states, is something we need to teach Haitians how to do because most of the country is without electricity and, hence, refrigeration. Canning is a necessity in third-world nations so they can eat healthy foods more often.

So when I received an offer to learn how to make pepper jelly from a friend at church, Earlene Boyd of Walnut Creek, Calif., I jumped at the chance. The benefit to me was twofold: 1) I wanted to learn more about canning; and 2) I wanted to learn how to make pepper jelly (think spicy jalapenos) so I can serve it over cream cheese as an appetizer for a dinner I’m catering in a couple of weeks.

Earlene had given my wife, Susan, and me a jar of pepper jelly awhile back, and we fell in love with the stuff. You pour it over cream cheese and dip your favorite cracker into the concoction, and viola, instant yummy appetizer at a fairly low cost.

As we worked, we chatted, which is how it should be while working together in the kitchen. I asked Earlene if her mom taught her how to can, and she said no, she just wanted to learn how to can and simply followed the directions. Ugh. I hate following directions.

I see Earlene at church just about every week. She and her husband, Duane, sit right behind Susan and me. She knows I like to cook, so we often end up talking about food, even during church.

What I learned from Earlene was that we both have a passion to use food as gifts for friends. Earlene gives away treats at church all the time. We have gotten into her inner circle, praise the Lord, which means regular goodies. A few weeks ago, we were guests at her home for her annual “pumpkin” dinner, in which pumpkin was the featured guest.

I told Earlene of my desire to set aside one day in the next few weeks and do nothing but make candy and baked goods for friends, and that set off a 30-minute conversation about food gifts. We agreed that it was a wonderful way to love on someone. My list started off with chocolate and peanut brittle, two of my childhood favorites my mom used to make (and, no, she didn’t teach me how to make those either.) I’m even thinking of presentation of the packages and how to make it … pretty. I might even buy bows.

So out of my morning with Earlene, I gathered up a few treasures. I learned how to can, how to make pepper jelly and our friendship blossomed a little.

How do I pay her back? She heard a few Hispanic ladies from church and me are getting together to make tamales. She asked if she could come. “Of course,” I told her. We’re both already thinking about how to invite others into the fold.

Food is a gift from God, and we should share it with others as often as possible. Celebrate the Christmas season by inviting friends over for a meal or by setting aside a day to make treats for cherished friends or maybe even people you don’t even know. Like a neighbor you’ve been dying to get to know better.

If nothing else, bring me some goodies, and I’ll be your friend!

Note: For the rest of December, I’m going to share some of my food secrets that I learn, such as my candy-making escapades.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Latkes for Everyone

Hanukkah began at sunset Dec. 1 and ended Dec. 9. Every year, the date changes slightly. According to myjewishlearning.com, Hanukkah (sometimes spelled Chanukah) is a Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights, commemorating Israel's freedom from the oppressive Syrian-Greek rule and the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 164 B.C.

Hanukkah is celebrated mostly in the home. Each night, families light menorahs, play dreidel (played with a spinning top) and sing songs. Presents are given, under the influence of Christmas.

And, yes, food is a big part of Jewish customs during Hanukkah. In particular, Jews eat deep-fried foods to commemorate the miracle of Hanukkah, in which a cruse of oil lasted for eight days instead of the usual one. Potato latkes are the most famous Hanukkah traditional food, usually served with a slow-roasted brisket.

I stumbled onto potato latkes years ago and absolutely love them. As Christians, I think it’s important that we understand Jewish customs and traditions. Food is a great way to connect with our Jewish brethren.

Here is a simple potato latkes recipe. Last week, I made them for my family, along with braised brisket for dinner. We all loved the dinner, shared in a family atmosphere.

Potato Latkes

Prep time: 15 minutes; cooking time: 15 minutes.

Recipe yield: 10 to 12 latkes


3 cups peeled and shredded potatoes (3-4 whole potatoes)

¼ onion grated

1 clove garlic, minced

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying

2 tsp. chopped green onion for garnish


Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth and wring, extracting as much moisture as possible.

In a medium bowl stir the potatoes, onion, eggs, flour and salt together.

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form ¼- to ½-inch thick patties. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Let drain on paper towels.

Serve hot, with applesauce (preferably homemade) or sour cream and sprinkle with chopped green onions!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Haitians, Orphanage Need Our Prayers

Day 7 continued (Saturday, Aug. 7)

Leogane, Haiti

After returning to our hotel from our Port-au-Prince jaunt, we all quickly finished packing our bags for our 5 a.m. departure time the next morning. Everyone wanted to make sure their suitcases were under the 50-pound maximum, so lots of filthy t-shirts and pairs of jeans were tossed in the garbage. Any extra food was given to Amy, who was staying the next week to work with the children.

By the time Saturday night rolled around, we all were exhausted and ready to go home. Everyone was anxious to go to bed, knowing we would be getting up at 4 to drive the two hours to the airport.

Saturday night also meant our last evening group gathering. Chris Stockhaus, missions director at Cornerstone Fellowship (Livermore, California), gave our 200 missionaries “Humility: True Greatness,” by C.J. Mahaney. Each day, we were to read two chapters for our personal devotional time, then talk about it later in our group time.

Frankly, every chapter was a little depressing. Do any of us ever feel humble enough to be worthy of the presence of God? We might feel humbled for a minute, but in that instance, our pride has kicked in and humility goes out the window. And yet, humility is something we all need.

I found it ironic that I received a book on humility. For the past nine months, I’ve been working on developing a new ministry, Feast With the King, also the name of the ministry book I hope to finish writing someday and get published. My morning prayer since January has been that I be a simple, humble servant, seeking to fulfill his God-given mission.

Sometimes, I think God is so funny. Was this book God’s way of telling me that I still need more humility? I thought I was doing pretty good there … for a minute or two. Or was it just a few seconds?

My gauge for humility has always my dad, who passed away 5 ½ years ago after a four-year battle with lung cancer. Pop was almost always who he was: a hard-working, simple farmer. That’s what made him happy. He was a deacon and sang in the choir for 40 years at the church I grew up in. I don’t think my dad ever sought attention for himself. He devoted his life to his God, his church, his wife, and his three sons. My dad was always willing to help others in need.

Me? I can find countless ways I bring attention to myself – every day. Sometimes, I get caught up in our “look at me” world.

It was equally humbling to hear others in our group tell their stories during our evening meetings. Going down to Haiti to help the orphans wasn’t the only thing this week was about. Short-term missions are God’s way of connecting with us in special ways.

I went down to gain some carpentry skills, only to hear God to tell me to plant a garden. I still don’t have many carpentry skills, but I grew up on a farm and worked in the fields for 10 years. God knew that when he recruited me. He knew both my brothers still work in the ag industry, so I have instant experts at my disposal.

As we went around that night, person after the person were so moved at seeing God work in the lives of these poor orphans and the adults associated with them. I think we all realized how rich we really are compared with Haitians, many of whom make around $100 a year. If I make less than that in a day, it’s a bad day. We all have air-conditioned homes and apartments to go to, cars to drive speedily to where we need to go, microwaves to heat up our dinners in a minute refrigerators to keep food cold, and freezers to keep food frozen.

Americans are so privileged to live the lives we do. Going down to a place like Haiti taught all of us who went how fortunate we are to live in the country we live in. In Haiti, we saw the worst form of poverty any of us had ever seen right in front of us. I’m a firm believer in being an Acts 1:8 church (paraphrase: go to Samaria, Judea and throughout the world to share the gospel), but where do you start with a place like Haiti? These people just saw the worst devastation they will ever see.

These people walk in humility every day. Many of the orphans lost one or both parents, friends and relatives in the January 12 earthquake. They see the same devastation around them every day. Hunger is a part of their daily lives. They battle near 100-degree temperatures and 90-percent humidity on a regular basis half the year. Drinking clean water is not a guarantee some days.

What do we do to help them? Maybe a better question is what can we do? Maybe you’re unemployed or underemployed and taking government welfare, and you don’t have any funds to send? Maybe you can’t get away from work or family to go to Haiti on a short-term mission trip. If all you can do every day is get on your hands and knees and ask God to help these people, then that is what you should be doing.

But, do not be one of those Christians who says “I’ll pray for them,” and then never think about them as you merrily go about your daily lives. That is one of the worst form of hypocrisy in the church today. Write a note in your Bible reminding you to pray for the Haitians. Keep a prayer list near your nightstand that includes a prayer for the orphanage.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV) says “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Haiti is a land that needs healing; Haitians need our prayers. When we pray, at home, at our churches and nationwide, change occurs, miracles happen, bellies fill up, clean water springs up from dirty wells, crops grow where only weeds grew before and people begin living again. Those things may need to happen for the Haitians to feel God’s love for them.

So if all you can do for Haiti and the orphanage in Leogane is pray, then pray earnestly every day. God hears our humble prayers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

These Boots Were Made for Working

Day 7 continued (Saturday, Aug. 7)

Leogane, Haiti

During our last few days at the orphanage, I began to think of ways to lighten my luggage load for the flight home, knowing I had to keep it under 50 pounds. I threw away a holy pair of jeans that were utterly filthy (and smelly). I tossed a white t-shirt that would never come clean, no matter how much bleach was applied.

The heaviest items left in my suitcase were an old pair of work boots. Surely, someone could use a good pair of work boots. I hadn’t used them in several years before this week; I surely wasn’t going to miss them.

Jonathan, our team leader, pulled me aside and reminded me of the church’s rules to not give personal items or food to the locals. Inside, I was sad, because, in my heart, I knew I was right in wanting to give one of the Haitians something he needed to work in local construction. But I also knew I had to follow the rules, whether I agreed with them or not.

After saying our goodbyes to the children, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up (so important for male construction workers), before heading off to tour Port-au-Prince. When we got back to our rooms around noon, the local construction team was hard at work on the second floor, where I was staying.

After changing clothes (I felt so refreshed), I started to head downstairs to our vans, ready to be a tourist. One of the workers passed by, and I just happened to look at his feet. He was wearing this ratty pair of tennis shoes feebly held together by short pieces of shoelaces. His heels hanged out over the back of his shoes, flattening them, and he was barefoot. The shoes looked like hand-me-downs that had handed down a couple of times.

I got his attention, then put my foot up next to his. His was bigger, but that was OK, because the boots were too big (they were given to me and probably a size 11; I wear a 10). I motioned for him to wait by my door while I fetched the boots. “Please, Lord, let these boots fit this man. He looks like he could use them.”

I put the boots on the ground for him to try on. Perhaps he was wary of me, thinking I was a used shoe salesman from the States. The young man slipped on the unlaced boots and smiled. I smiled back. If the boots fit, you must … keep them.

“Yours,” I told him. “Gift.” I was thinking, “You need them more than I do, fella.”

We shook hands, sealing the deal. He quickly slipped off his tennis shoes and put on the boots, without socks, mind you. I couldn’t help noticing this young man of perhaps 25 had the feet of a 70-year-old man.

He went back to his labors, with toes stretching out, and I skipped off, gleefully. I had lightened my suitcase load and I had gladdened my heart. (The next day, my suitcase weighed in at 50.3 pounds, close enough to not pay the additional fee.)

I probably bragged too much about my thoughtful gift, but I was truly happy that I could help someone in need. Our team rules said nothing about giving your stuff away to the locals.

Caption: These are the shoes worn by the Haitian before my free gift.

One of my teammates, Amy, has returned to Leogane to care for little Charlie, who was sick the entire week we were there. Read her blog at http://amyshaiti.blogspot.com/