Some people cannot see a dog without feeling the overwhelming need to pet it. Personally, I don't really care for dogs. My weakness is adorable old ladies. Not that I need to pet them, they just melt my heart the way a puppy would for most normal people.
I sincerely admire the wisdom they carry. They've seen a whole lot more of life than me, and their calm knowing makes me want to write down every soft word they say to keep as a guide on my own journey.
It is the incredibly humble/ resilient/ joyful people we cross paths with in the campo that keep us motivated in our mission to improve the quality of life for those living in rural poverty. They have shared their lives and stories with us, and time and again we leave bursting with inspiration.
Here are a few of the remarkable older humans that left their mark on my heart this past month in the campo.
"I'm ugly now but I used to be very beautiful. I can't see anything. Take some cacao from my yard. I can't see anything."
This beauty watched silently from her window as we worked building a latrine outside her wooden house. She never once came outside, but watched curiously the entire time as we hammered and mixed cement. Her older son lived in the house with her, and although he had a slight alcohol problem, he managed to upkeep the forest of crops that surrounded their property. She did express her gratitude for the new latrine, saying that using a porcelain toilet would be much more forgiving on her old eyes, than her previous bathroom arrangement.
"This water has brought new life to my home. I know my grand kids have clean water to drink, and someday my great-grand kids will have it too."
"Enjoy yourself today, and every day appreciate what surrounds you. Have fun! It is important not to take a day for granted."
Although this woman appears to be efficiently pouring herself water from her new tap, she is actually shaking vigorously. Despite this disability, she runs a small convenience store from her home and even made us a ball of fresh cheese. She looked at each of us strangers like we were extended members of her family, and warmly welcomed us into her home, giving us shaky hugs, and advice with shaky words.
"I have lived here my whole life with my sister. Neither of us ever got married so we have kept each other company all of these years. I thought I would never see our town get clean water, but thank God it is finally here!"
Easily over a hundred years old, this tiny, shriveled woman, would gaze up at me with the wonder of a small child. Partly because she probably hasn't seen very many strangers before, and partly because I think she was in a permanent state of confusion. She complained of having a pain in her back that felt like a ball. I would find her sitting in a small, home-made, wooden chair and she would immediately stand up and offer it to me, begging me to rest my young legs. I would kindly decline and beg her to sit her raisin-like body back down. It hurt me to see her hunched over in the pain of old-age, and it hurt her to see me, young and full of health, standing.