By Robert Bradley
I recall writing some time ago that among the many joys of living in Cuenca is that it seems, wherever you go, you will run into folks who are happy to see you, and almost always have time for cafe con leche and a casual chat about travels, local events, and gossip.
The conversation is as lighthearted as alpine air.
On many occasions, if you walk into a cafe that is full, but has a few empty chairs, you will be invited over:
“Come join us!”
It happens all the time, no matter how slight may be your connection or prior introduction.
This spirit and sharing has been a recurring theme of my column because I am still enchanted by it every day, and when I sit down to write, the subject often bubbles up for additional attention. Yet, something else has been taking place deep inside me and far out of view that deserves special recognition, as well.
Over the course of this past year I’ve increasingly felt what seemed a strong hand on my shoulder, but from whom, or what, I could not see. I would often feel, rather than hear, a deep resonance, like a chord stuck from bedrock deep inside the earth that hummed right through my bones. I knew these clues to be far weightier than the ephemeral afternoon glow signaling evening clouds, or the flirtatious summer breeze brushing our hair. And, I listened carefully. At last, it came to me. It is my roots driving deep into the soil of Cuenca, ringing timeless stone, exposing ancient dreams.
I heard this as well:
Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all else grows dark.
I was thinking about all this stuff these last few days because I had little else to do other than cough, and moan, and sip comforting pho made by a friend who has a Vietnamese restaurant on San Sebastian Plaza.
I thought a lot about it.
We are all kinsmen who made the great journey south and settled here, often reconfiguring our lives in ways we never imagined 10 years before. Many of us brought only what our luggage allowed, many had the great fortune of holding fast to an unbroken thread strung from compassion, bravery and a desire to creatively tend to our lives.
But, oh, what sorrow! Some of the clan were taken early, leaving a loved one to forge their dreams alone.
And, oh, what shame, if we do not assist those same friends who were left behind to tend a now lonely garden.
While I laid limp in the clamp of influenza, I began to wonder:
What of the many who do not have a friend able to schlep down to the market, restaurant, and/or pharmacy for them?
What of the many who do not chat on the phone every day, or play cards, or meet for cafe con leche, or write to complain in the “Comments” section or engage in any other manner of daily social activities, and therefore, would not be missed if a routine was broken?
And of course, what if a neighbor should fall, could not get up, and knew not whom to call for help?
These scenarios are painfully present, pervasive, and deserve our prompt attention as thoughtful members of our community — yet the challenge is elusive. What can we do?
I suggest we begin here.
We should take time to understand the complexity of the challenge and work towards furthering discussions that will contribute to achieving actionable results.
I’ve chosen among my highest priorities, as deputy editor of CuencaHighLife and Cuenca Dispatch, to focus on working with our staff reporters to keep you up-to-date on developing healthcare and insurance issues, as well as posting a monthly resource guide highlighting valuable healthcare programs currently available to the community of expats who call Ecuador home.
But it is you, our wonderful collage of talent, wisdom and creative energy that must lead the charge to integrate those left alone into our family of friends — to have them join us.
If you care to contact me, I will gladly arrange a place and time for those of us who are keenly concerned to come together and begin the long and fruitful journey of discovery.
What can we do?
I know this: We will uncover creative ways, unconceived before now, and we’ll weave our creativity, compassion, bravery, and desire into a fabric able to support this most basic element of our own true selves, caring for those most in need.
You can contact me via CuencaHighLife, or my personal email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace and Love.