Friday, December 19, 2014

moving to mexico -- doing good

"What do you do in Mexico?"

I have been asked that question by a bewildering variety of people.  The second "do" is always blurted out as if it were accompanied by a battalion of exclamation points.  Imagine Tallulah Bankhead delivering it.

It is one of those questions fueled by its subtext.  Usually, with the assumption that there could not possibly be anything of interest in Mexico once you have spent a week at the beach eating Mexican food.

My usual answer is far more sardonic than accurate.  "What you would do in your hometown -- only with a lot more freedom."

I should give more thought to answering the question seriously.  After all, if this week is any indication, what a person can do in Mexico is "good."  As in, doing good.

On Wednesday evening, the local Rotary held its Christmas dinner-dance on the tennis court of a fancy hotel.  I suspect the irony of that French Revolution echo was not foremost in anyone's mind.  Nor should it have been.

In addition to offering an opportunity for the Mexican and northern middle classes to mix for an evening of dining and dancing, the annual event is one of the primary fund-raisers for the local Rotarians.

Even though I am no longer a Rotarian (and have never been one here), I have monitored several of their projects.  The club has wisely focused its attempts at development in a single area -- education.  Classrooms and facilities have been built in areas with limited financial resources.

But the desire to do good is not limited to children.  When I first visited Mexico, I was shocked at the number of starving and injured dogs.  They seemed to be everywhere.  That was in the 1970s. 

Melaque was no exception when I arrived here in 2007.  Seven years later, stray and injured dogs are an oddity.  And a lot of that improvement goes to two organizations that have sponsored recurring neuter and spay clinics.

Yesterday one of those groups, ProAnimal Melaque, held a fundraiser complete with bingo, raffles, and a silent auction.  I suspect some people were there to get a good deal on a prize.

But most were supporters and volunteers in making this area a more pleasant place for both animals and people.  After all, it is a bit jarring to encounter suffering animals while trying to enjoy a lovely sunset.

After the animal fundraiser, I was invited to meet with a group of expatriates and tourists who get together regularly to give a hand up to Mexicans who are suffering setbacks.  There are many groups similar to this.  Individuals who combine resources to do what an individual could not do alone.

Wrapping up Thursday afternoon was another do good moment.  Our church sponsors a Christmas sing-along each year.  The idea is for our neighbors to come together to sing Christmas songs -- as if we were gathered around a spinet in grandmother's parlor.  Complete with Christmas cookies.

There is a line in Robert Altman's Nashville that has stuck with me over the past 40 years.  "Does Christmas smell like oranges to you?"  Like Howard K. Smith in the film, my answer is: "As a matter of fact, Christmas has always smelled like oranges to me."  At least, metaphorically.

Oranges evoke the type of nostalgia that can transport us to a different place and time.  A time when we were young and the world offered nothing but limitless possibilities.  When we were surrounded by our families -- secure in their love in our grandmother's living room.

Music has that same power.  At least, it did for the people gathered under the church palapa yesterday afternoon.  We came as the faithful.  Laughed at a snowman in a top hat and roasting chestnuts.  Chortled at the thought of letting it snow in the heat of Melaque.

As I sat amongst these neighbors, most whom I have never met, I felt as if I were sitting with my cousins in a brightly-lit room that we knew as a second home.  And it made me happy -- realizing it was plenty good for me to rest in.

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