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Gerardo grew up in Canada in a conservative family that had pretty strict religious views (Dutch Reformist I believe) and raised him in the traditions of Canadian dairy farming. He told us that for years he felt as though something was missing from his life, and even though he was making good money as farmer, he did not feel fulfilled. So with a group of other farmers around the area, he put together several trips here to Cuernavaca, to get to know the farmers here and what their need were. Eventually this group donated 30-some dairy cattle to the people here, and Gerardo brought them down from Canada and began helping out here among the poor and marginalized.
Follow up:He likes to say that he spent 34 years talking about what he was going to do and the good man he was going to be, and now he has to spend 34 more years not talking and actually doing what he said. Anyways, to make a long story short, he decided to stay here permanently, selling most everything he owned in Canada and living here to help the people around him. Though he came here to help the farmers, his philosophy has changed over time. A quotation on the wall of the room where we meet begins to explain how he thinks about his work. It says, “If you’ve come here to help me you’re wasting your time, but if you’ve come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, let us work together". Gerardo has bound up his life with the Mexican people. Eventually he started this program called QUEST that we’ve been experiencing for the last two weeks, and has given us all a lot to think about. There is a lot more to Gerardo’s story but it is much better told in person, and I will happily tell you if you ask sometime.
I know the Volweider sisters talked about what we’ve done each day, but I want to tell you more about what I have experienced here, to hopefully make it more relatable and personable. Also as seen in the title, I want to talk about letting go of my truth, or the subjectiveness of some things that I’ve “known” compared to reality.
Mexico is a beautiful country. Normally when I say that, I would mean that, physically, the country is beautiful, which is true. However, the real beauty I have found here is in the people. I cannot express how gracious and hospitable everyone has been to us here. They greet us so warmly and open their homes to us, giving us food or gifts even when they do not have very much themselves to begin with. This sentiment has been very challenging for me. If some random people that I did not know came to my house, would I be so quick to open up my life to them? I don’t know that I would, and that bothers me. We have a tendency in America to value material goods and wealth, sometimes even above other people. And that is the case here too, but only for the 20-30% of people at the top of the food chain who are super rich. The other part of the population here seems to care so much more about family and having relationships with other people, something that I think we’ve lost sight of in our consumerist culture. I’m not trying to preach to you from my soapbox; that would be hypocritical. But I want to change, to be more happy with what I have, and to put my relationships with others at the top of my priorities list. Many of the people here are poor and marginalized by the wealthy, and in the end all they have is each other. But that thought got me thinking…even for all our advancement and technology, if we stripped away all the junk, all we would have is each other too. I think it’s an important realization for myself that without other people, I’m nothing. I don’t mean to say that I have no purpose or meaning, but without other people in my life, I am poor.
We talk about how other countries have less money or are not as good as we are, but I think that most of America (myself included) has missed some key parts of the big picture. We are the ones who are poor. Poor in spirit, poor in relationships, poor in loving our fellow people, poor in fulfillment, and in real meaning. I want to make the disclaimer that this is a observation about our culture in general, not every American. I maintain that this observation is true, though, and that as a country we could use some real soul searching to regain a sense of who we are, especially in these times in our history.
I’m beginning to question just how much I support America. Do not mistake what I’m saying; I love my country. However, there is also a great deal of ignorance from the American people at the harm we have done throughout the world and continue to do to this very day. Some may say that my sentiments are unpatriotic, but I disagree. I think that admitting when your country has been wrong and gone astray of its values is the most patriotic thing you can do, and something we should all work to do further. Accountability is something we should not be afraid to enforce.
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