Postponing almuerzo and receiving love: Two stories that may help us understand

When I left you last I was just about to introduce you to two stories that took place during our time in the community of Pacifico de Villa. The first story highlights a small sacrifice that goes along way.

During one of our days volunteering in the shantytown of Pacifico de Villa, the community members and the Canadian volunteers had been working on the retaining wall. It was approaching the regular time for the Canadian snack and the Peruvian almuerzo (lunch – the biggest meal of the day). There were indications that both groups were beginning to get hungry. In past experiences it has been a challenge coordinating meal times on the construction site. Community members like taking a large lunch, but unfortunately by the time they return the Canadian have to finish for the day. We depend entirely on the support of the community to complete the projects and are unable to continue our projects while the community has lunch. Aware of this concern, we spoke to the community leader, Florentino. He agreed that the community should forego lunch until after the volunteers had left the site so as to maximize their support. A number of the community members were noticeably uncomfortable with this prospect. However, they understood the importance of utilising the available time to work on the wall. The community volunteers agreed that they should delay lunch until after the Canadians had left the community. The community offered for the Canadians to take a rest, however, when the Canadians heard that the community had agreed to forego lunch, the Canadians refused to take a break. It was a touching moment. Each group willingly inconvenienced themselves so as to bring benefit to the other party.

A second story details the importance of giving something to someone, something that they do not have. It was during a conversation between me and Estefany, a young girl from Pacifico de Villa, that I realised how powerful it could be. Estefany had really taken to the Canadian volunteers and during the final farewell I asked her why she liked spending time with the Canadians. She told me it was because we gave her something she did not usually receive. I thought she was referring to a visit to the park. She explained that she liked the Canadians because we gave the children of Pacifico attention and “amor” that they did not readily receive from their parents. It was not the wall, or the day at the park. It was the acts of love.

It seems to me that it is about giving of oneself, which often means being inconvenienced for the well-being of another person. Is that a tangible concept to introduce into our lives in Canada as we attempt to live a life of greater solidarity? Perhaps this is a transferable skill. As a teacher, if one student is always late, instead of scolding him for his lateness except him wholeheartedly and validate his presence in the classroom. In an office setting, when your colleague begins to hound you, respond in a surprising way, rather than confront him, be sympathetic to his concerns;  thereby removing the opportunity for conflict. Our Canadian volunteers did not expect the community to postpone lunch (they were well aware of the importance of food in Peru). Estefany and the children from Pacifico did not expect to receive such love from foreigners. Perhaps by doing the unexpected we can all move a step closer towards a life of solidarity.

L. Shuttleworth

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