We have been in Ecuador now a total of 2 years (two separate trips). I have started to reflect on some of the things I have learned. One important thing I have learned about me and the world is that my perception of 'poverty' was not entirely realistic.
I use to think 'poor' families may collect Social Assistance, may use the local food and clothing banks, may or may not have a vehicle of sorts, may or may not choose to receive food hampers, may partake in a humble holiday celebration and may even live in 'low income' or 'geared to income' housing units and yes, I realize that some of our very own in Canada are even 'homeless'.
What I have come to know is that poverty, true, deep and powerful poverty runs far deeper than this. Where a family of 4 shares one towel and one bed. When they do not have work, they have ZERO income. (some are lucky to receive the $50/mth government pension). Children of all ages that have NEVER opened a wrapped gift for any occasion. Where each family member has a spoon to eat, but nothing else. Where family members may try and give a dollar here and there to help another buy food. Where they live in a house made of bamboo panels with no windows, no floors, no bathroom, no water.
That to me is poverty at the very heart of the word. YET, they smile often, they are the first to help when needed, the first to give a morsel of food when they have it. The first to give a hug, share a laugh. It is amazing to see and to learn from them. As much as I want to 'help' so many that have 'so little', my fear is to change them. Change them into people that are stressed and unhappy. People that find it hard to share a laugh and never quite feel satisfied.
As I look around my own home, no curtains, no kitchen table, no matching towel set hanging in the bathroom for a coordinated visual....and suddenly none of that seems important what so ever. I recall in times past how annoyed I would be if someone used my decorative towel set in the bathroom that matched my toothbrush holder and shower curtain.....it all seems so silly and unimportant now.
I am happy to say I am no longer concerned about getting the curtains up, it will happen one day. I am embracing that some of my priorities are changing while on this journey.
I want to thank my Ecuadorian friends for teaching me this lesson. XO