As bewildering as it may be, I am occasionally confronted by expats right here in Cuenca who are spiteful.
Some appear to have been severely wounded by their own past misdeeds, others by strongly felt objections to the culture and politics they left behind, and a few seemed displaced by grievances and circumstances beyond their control. There are still others, of course, who are just plain unfriendly, bitter, and hostile. It is as if they dragged some detritus of the country that summarily dismissed them all the way down here to display it like relics of an imagined past. It’s a pity, really.
Fortunately, most folks in these parts are inspired by the generosity, empathy, and goodwill they witness every day in their new hometown of Cuenca.
They also do their part to help.
Time and again, we read of someone in need – and then watch in awe as the community rallies around them, offering financial and emotional support. On several occasions, a life is saved by their thoughtfulness. Mine is one of them.
When I was trapped in the deep trough of sepsis, the doctors treating me lost the road map charting my escape route, leaving me ditched with a 20% chance of survival. But then, as has so often been the case, a community of Cuenca’s finest stepped onto the track, guided me home, and saved the day. Determined folks, some of whom I have yet to meet, rushed to my side with open hearts, minds, and wallets. They established a GoFundMe campaign to help fund my long uphill climb to safety.
Thanks to their herculean effort, I am here to report that I will have my final surgery before the end of the year.
I escaped the gallows just in time. A growing line of folks was waiting for their turn for assistance.
J.T. survived due to the support he received from GoFundMe and doctors who generously volunteered their time to contain his rebellious heart. Thanks to local crowdfunding, Jefferson received urgent medical attention for a condition that would have otherwise irreversibly altered his life.
Community fundraising and raffles helped Cameron afford a new hip.
And, one-year-old Karla had life-saving heart surgery to correct a Ductus Arteriosus, thanks to the tireless effort of Will, Peggy, and Mary, co-founders of Helping Kids in Ecuador.
Grace Clinic has established a network of doctors who offer routine diagnoses, medications, and referrals free of charge to refugees.
Fundacion NUR attends to the needs of vulnerable people through educational training and social assistance activities.
Hogar de Esperanza provides medical assistance, manages a food pantry, and houses 38 people in dire need of support.
Hogar Miguel Leon has been caring for orphan girls since 1870 and housing for the elderly since 1952.
The list of community organizations and stories of kind-hearted people making a difference in everyday lives goes on and on. Why, just the other day, a bevy of folks met over lunch to contribute funds to repair German Zhina’s taxi. He long ago earned their thanks and trust. Now he was being rewarded with the money needed to get him back on the street, helping those in need. How perfect is that?
The novelist Jack Kerouac wrote in a letter to his ex-wfie Edie Parker: “If you practice kindness, patience, and generosity all day, and to everybody, you will realize you are already in heaven.” It was sage advice from a man who defined a generation through recording the short-haired joy and roughness of the US in the 1950s armed only with a typewriter, a used car, and a good friend. His was a fine roadmap, indeed.
The writer, George Saunders, nearing the end of his life, confessed with unsentimental ruefulness: “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.”
The lesson is clear.
To be human is to leap toward our highest moral potential, even as we trip over the cobblestones of our shortcomings.
The more compassionate and kinder a person becomes, the more enriched their life becomes, often in surprising and wondrous ways. Detecting the hidden kindness in others, especially the difficult ones, becomes a reward unlike any other — mysterious things become clear, difficult things become easy, and dull things become cheerful.
If you respond with kindness toward the evils done to you, you will neutralize whatever meager pleasure there is that can be derived from evil. When warmed by the sun of kindness, the ill wind of selfish discontent will dissipate like low-hanging clouds.
Kindness is for your soul as good health is for your body: you do not notice it when you have it, but if it is neglected or infected with impatience and anger, it may become a cancerous knot that will permeate your soul with consequences from which you may never recover.
It is for this reason, among many others, that each and every one of us should habitually take time out of our lives and attend to the needs of others. Truly, the best daily dose of medicine you can take is to get out of your head and help someone else for a while. It will make you happier. You will be awakened to future possibilities ripe for choosing while being firmly rooted in the present.
So, get out there and volunteer at any of the fine places mentioned here or any one of the many other worthy organizations working hard to assist those in need.
Your reward will be far greater than the effort.
This is the road to fulfillment.
This is the foundation of the world.