Talbot von Stade ’21 considers the meaning of “working and living for family and community.”
Last night at La Espia, a restaurant in San Juan, José told the story of the beginning of Cambiando Vidas, and his words have remained in my head since. He told us: “You stop being a person and a human being when you no longer live and work with the purpose of helping other people.” He showed us that there is heart and a deeply rooted love for his community within every cinder block he lays to build a new home.
My perspective has greatly shifted to looking at the Dominican lifestyle and sprawling countryside as a lens of simplicity and humanity in which the goal is not to succeed the most. On our drives through the countryside, every student marvels at the way the little children wave and cheer when we drive by and how the whole community shows up, the majority of them not being paid, to build a new home for a family. There is a universal understanding and sense of empathy on every road you travel on here because locals sit on their motorcycles talking, little children walk to school together holding hands, and people whistle to each other, which magically hides the lack of materialism in America.
Watching the Dominicans hug each other on the street corners when we pick up ice for the work site in the morning, or the little boys carry the younger children of the community home makes me realize how different childhood is in the United States. José’s words have altered the way in which I look at our own society, after witnessing the simplicity here. Driving past the rice fields and children racing on horses has showed the natural simplicity that allows this community to exist perfectly. The lack of resources and iPhones is replaced by the foundation of Jose’s words in that the Dominicans work and live for their families and for the community.