by | Nov 22, 2001 | Archives

Here's a Thanksgiving gift.

Dear International Friends,

The Winter before last Merri and I spent the entire winter at our Ecuadorian plantation living in a 10'x 10' hut, no electricity, no phone and no hot water…for all those months.

We lived with the natives there, as they do, our goal to understand them, but what we did not expect was to learn how much we truly are blessed in life and how much we have to be thankful for.

Though they had nothing and earned about $30 a month, the joy and happiness during that time with those people was infectious, laughter always just waiting to bubble over at any event. I remember one day at the top of the land cutting bamboo with our friend, Manuel. El Nino was at its worst and it had rained and rained. We were all wet, muddy and cold and Manuel was tugging at an unforgiving stick. When it ripped out unexpectedly he slipped and slid all the way down the hill! He pulled himself from the slime his face wet, darkened with mud and all I saw was his white teeth as he grinned and grinned. A short belly laugh later we were all rolling in the mud…hilarious he then went back up the hill at work. How warming a laugh can be!

I can't add what a sense of peace and harmony rolled over us as we worked, stopped and looked down at the lushness of the valley below, the mists rising, the waterfalls folding in lacy cascades, bird songs trilling through the clear air. The river although far below us was a great bubbling sound along with the strangeness of some of the bird calls. This was a joy we had not felt since we were kids. Not a worry in the world except getting the next piece of bamboo down.

Then Merri and I went into Quito to what some may call civilization. The hotels there always give us a sumptuous suite and we dined from the gourmet table in modern lush surroundings. We had our hot baths, exotic shopping and afternoon tea in the hotel lobby classically serenaded by the string quartet. They knew us so well in this hotel, that they didn't even hesitate when we arrived in our muddy boots and clothes with our same old well worn hats.

We should have been ecstatic over a long hot bath, beautiful service and a king sized bed. Though that was all pleasurable…we saw that these pleasures were not nearly as important as we thought.

We eagerly looked forward to getting back to our farm, hard work, simple fresh food, an evening around the fire and learning ancient ways. We learned that joy is in the doing and giving and sharing. The gratitude of the locals for our help was the greatest gift we may have ever felt.

Our purpose there, we thought, was to help these people learn modern ways and to increase their efficiency. We decided to join them and live exactly as they did first, so as to better understand them and how we can help them improve.

But this decision helped us learn more than we'll ever be able to share with them. A precious gift. I thought about this as Merri and I rode out of the valley the final morning of that trip. Finlandia was playing ion the car radio and its moving strains surrounded me as I looked back into the beauty of our valley and was touch again by the sweetness of the people. Tears came to my eyes I thought, “How precious this gift.”

Every mile closer to civilization, we wondered more where real civilization begins and knew that soon we wanted to get back. As Merri and I sit here now in lush comfort, enjoying this day of thanks, we fell incredible joy knowing that in this world of problems we can have the gift of helping. So we thank you for letting us share and hope we can help make your life better in some small way.

We cannot thank you enough! We look forward with great joy to already sharing ideas of simplicity and freshness in the year ahead with you. If we can in some way make your life more joyous and help you laugh and learn we will truly be blessed. There is such beauty on this earth in this world at this time and we are so grateful to share it with you.