Sunday, January 19, 2014

sign me up -- again and again and again

If blogs serve no other purpose, they are perfect tools for confession.  And confess I will.

When I moved south to Mexico, I vowed that I would escape my life as a serial volunteer.  By nature, I am a joiner.

In Oregon, I was a member (and chairman) of our local Salvation Army advisory board; member of my church board; volunteer worker and legal adviser to a political party; Sunday school teacher; pro bono legal volunteer; guest speaker and fundraiser for several organizations; board member of a political action committee; leader for a small group Bible study group; board member of our neighborhood association.

All of that while working full time.  I knew when I retired that the 40 to 60 hours a week I devoted to work would quickly morph into full-time voluntarism.

In a perfect world, there would have been nothing wrong with that.  I found a good deal of pleasure in each of those pursuits.  But doing nothing but volunteer work was not my idea of retirement.

So, I did what I do best.  I ran away.  To Mexico.

Now, that is not entirely fair.  I moved to Mexico because I wanted a life of adventure -- to escape my life of comfort.  You have heard the phrase before.  I wanted to get up each morning and not have any idea how I was going to get through the day.  But, I also knew what I was leaving behind.

Most of you know this blog was not always called "mexpatriate."  It was once known as "same life -- new location."

In picking the first title, I had read several comments on Mexican message boards from people who were convinced that moving to Mexico would resolve all of their life failures north of the Rio Bravo.  That they would be loved and have a completely new life in Mexico -- obliterating their lives of disappointment and failure in Canada and The States.

Well, it was not going to happen.  And I knew that.  My life -- who I am -- would be packed up in my Escape right next to my laptop and cookware.

But I did manage to run away from being a volunteer.  Well, for about six months.  Then, I volunteered to teach a Bible study course here in Melaque.  If I recall correctly, if was merely for a few weeks.  But once bitten, I started volunteering for more tasks.

Cleaning up the andador around the laguna where I live.  Church board member.  Occasional Sunday service leader in the summer.  Photographer for fundraising events.  And, of course, one of my favorites -- the Indian school.

I have written several posts about the place:  kidding around; love enough to share; party on; the gift of the littlest magi; feliz navidad.  But I have never talked about the overall program.  I don't think.

Despite all of the talk about Melaque as a tourist destination, that is not where the area makes its money.  Melaque services the surrounding agricultural community.  Just like my former hometown -- Salem.

The very nature of agriculture requires seasonal workers.  In our community, they are migrant works.  Mainly Mixteco Indians from the state of Guerrero and Chiapas.

When the workers head north, they bring their families with them.  Because the full family often works in harvesting or planting.  They work as if the farm was their own.

That means that they need to find all of the necessities of life while they are here.  Shelter.  Water.  Food.  It is not unusual to see full families living under tarps in tree groves.

About six years, my physician, Dra. Rosa, took steps to help change those conditions.  She was concerned about finding housing and providing medical care.  But, most importantly, she wanted the children to have access to something they could not have in the fields -- a formal education.

Through her efforts, the government provided a grant that resulted in three buildings: a clinic, housing for sixteen families, and school rooms with an attached kitchen. 

The most difficult task was making the school work.  The small core of volunteers had to go out into the fields to convince the children to come to the school after they worked a full day in the fields.  And teachers had to be recruited who often needed to teach the children how to speak Spanish to allow them to understand their other classes.

It all fell together.  Every time I visit the place, the intensity of the children strikes me.  They want to learn.  A friend told me a story of a young Mixteco boy who was proud that he knew arithmetic better than a Mexican boy he knew in the local village.

The school provides something that these children and families would not otherwise have while they are working in our area -- hope that tomorrow can be better than it is today.  That they can become part of the definition of Mexican.

Today, the women and a few men, who volunteer their time to make this little community work, met to discuss this year's projects.  They are few.  And the needs are many.

None of it will get done unless other hands are found to help make a better future for these children.

For those of you who live in this area, take a look at the project list.  There is undoubtedly something you can do to help.

If you cannot get the link to work, you can contact one of the following:

And me?  I have learned a rather important lesson about myself.

Trying to run away from what I truly enjoy is a bit counter-productive.  I often look around and wonder about the good deeds I see being done.  Is it out of white liberal guilt?  Paternalism?  Trying to get those last few good deeds on the books before shuffling off to punch in at the pearly gates?

And the answer is -- it is none of my business why other people do what they do.  Assaying the motives of others is a fool's game.

Sitting in that upper room yesterday made me happy to share life with a group of people who give their time, their money, their love to a worthy cause.  And that is all I need to know.

Why don't you join them?  I promise you will never be the same again.

No comments: