By Jan Dynes
I was asked to write a short piece by a very reputable magazine about how anyone can find happiness in today’s world — the one of pandemics, war, starvation, ‘dog eat dog’ politics and ‘man’s inhumanity to man’.
I couldn’t write that article. I had to decline although I had been previously published and well paid by this excellent publication. Authors struggle with their own consciences when turning down prestige and money. But my beliefs and my take on the world forced me to reject the assignment.
You see, I do not choose to live in that unhappy world, I do not see that as our situation. I see many people living in fear that has them acting out based on false news and conspiracy theories that lead them into a misinformation panic. But that doesn’t make them bad people, not even when they appear to be acting angry and seem unreasonable. Keep in mind that panic does not always bring out the best in people and good people can act badly.
So what do I see looking deeply into other people’s hearts when I exchange awkward Facebook ‘back and forths’, when they direct anger at me simply for being positive and mostly happy and holding onto a deep faith in humanity as a whole? I have been called naive, stupid, blind and a few other less repeatable things simply for telling people that I can respect their thoughts and that we may have to simply agree to disagree. I often ask if they could please supply me with more information and simply back up their positions with varifiable proof, which I would respectfully read.
Sadly, that generally results in an insult and then an end to communications. Yet I still believe we can come together by returning to polite discourse — agreeing to disagree — instead of assuming the other person is wrong. Some of that has been instigated by the false impression that things we do on social media don’t require normal social politeness. I think it is often a mirror that reflects people’s inner tantrums and robs them of their maturity. In so many ways, however, it is a gift allowing us to stay in touch with those we hold dear far away and share snippets of our lives that make us feel closer. There are so many positive and funny posts.
However, I pose this thought: what if politics and party affiliations were to be left out of the personal feeds and only done in the private groups? What if civility became part of the culture of postings?
Unlike many who unfriend those with different points of view, particularly on politics, I choose to hold polite and respectful dialogs to build bridges. I am open and try to listen. I do not think I know everything or that I am always right. I think keeping an open mind and heart is vital. If people want to discuss politics, they should join political forums to discuss those things and I am fine with that. On the other hand, I want to keep my page light, upbeat and full of hope.
I am a simple woman unafraid to have enormous, yet ordinary dreams, though well-educated; I am still a wide-eyed optimist, equal parts Pollyanna and Peter Pan! I am excited to be an expat in the stunning city of Cuenca and I am excited about my new homeland and the opportunity to grow with it and assimilate with its lovely and tranquil culture. With my Lucille Ball red hair, I may never be taken as a true Cuencano, but I can still share a spirit of family with these wonderful people who have become dear to me and made me feel so welcome. I have fallen in love here with the attitude of welcomeness.
I don’t pay much attention to the world news these days and its myriad gruesome details, only enough to know the broad strokes, and thus I still find the world to be a wonderful place; and to elaborate on the word wonderful, it means “wonder filled.” We need to see the miracles all around us, both those created by Mother Nature as well as by people. We need to believe in one another and make plans that are much bigger then ourselves, plans that have order and a view for our future.
Cuenca is growing and vibrant in times of normalcy — it is caring and welcoming and will grow and rebound brilliantly as we emerge from the current troubles and I am excited to be a part of it, both watching how it handled the crisis and as it plans to re-enter, carefully, the new normal, whatever that may look like. I am convinced it will be a positive evolution.
Though only here two and a half years, I have fallen passionately in love with both the history and the enthusiasm that resonates in Cuencanos and expats from all over the world, a glorious and compassionately mixed humanity delightfully entertwined. We will all work together to make a strong and healthy future once again.
The economy here will be healthy again — believe it, speak it and help it to grow. Few things are more important than believing. Our thoughts, deeds and desires need to be lovely. We need to hold out gifts of generosity, sweetness, genuine goodness of heart and a child-like innocence of mind and spirit. We need to remember old adages, of being good neighbors and loving others as ourselves. We need to drop the desire to be politically correct to the point that has us slinging mud at those who think differently. We are meant to “judge not … yet we be judged”; so let us all lift up our local businesses and our community and then grow it to heights never imagined before and everyone can flourish.
We should remember that the greatest of all things is love, just what our city, neighborhoods and all of us need to spread in Cuenca and ultimately the whole planet.
The world I see is still full of hope. We are being tested and inconvenienced but soon we will all emerge and thrive once more. Hang on and hold each other up. We will all rise together as the flood lifts all boats.
Jan Dynes, the author of Refraction, Dottie’s Gift, Jamal’s Story, The River and Hear Our Voices moved to Cuenca Easter two years ago and fell in love with the city and its people. She lives on a finca on a mountaintop 25 minutes out of Cuenca at 10,400 ft. She found her paradise!