When I took Spanish in high school, we learned that the response to, “gracias,” (“thank you”) should be, “¡de nada” (an expression translated as, “you’re welcome,” but literally meaning, “from nothing”, with an intention along the lines of, “there’s nothing to be thankful about”). It makes sense, I guess. I mean, it’s kind of a humble way of responding that what we did was no big deal, or perhaps a falsely humble way, depending on context.
However, in my trip to Costa Rica a few weeks ago, I consistently heard a very different response. While there were one or two times, in a highly touristy context, I heard, “¡pura vida!” (“pure life”), which is an extremely common Costa Rican expression and philosophy relating to the notion of enjoying a simple life and being happy, the most frequent response was, “¡con gusto!” (“with pleasure”).
The first time or two I heard, “¡con gusto!” I just thought of it as a local idiom. After hearing it time and time again, though, it got me thinking. What if we did all the things we do for others in a spirit of pleasing not only those whom we serve, in whatever capacity, but also because it gave us pleasure to serve in that capacity? How much more enjoyable would life be? “¡Pura vida!” indeed!
My trip to Costa Rica was geared toward photography, both scenic and wildlife, and light hiking in National Parks. The trip did not disappoint on those fronts, but one of my most fulfilling experiences did not involve wildlife. Actually, that’s not quite true. I was walking through the village of Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast, not far from the border with Nicaragua. Toward the furthest point in my walk, there were indeed some monkeys in the trees, and I took some photos of those. However, on the way back to my meeting point for the boat trip back to my lodging, a cute three-year-old girl asked me to take her picture. I was a little nervous about the idea, but her mother was nearby, so I asked if it would be okay, and her mother said it would, so I happily (“con gusto”) took a couple of photos.
After taking the photos, though, it felt a bit weird to just take photos that neither the girl nor her mother would ever see. Thus, I got the idea to at least show them the photos on the LCD screen on my camera. The photo at the top of this page was taken by a fellow traveler, Tracy Brunero, as I showed the little girl one of her photos. It’s hard to explain how such a simple thing can feel so fulfilling. “¡Pura vida!”, I guess. I thanked the little girl and her mother for letting me take her photo, but they also thanked me for taking it. ¡Con gusto!