“I want to live,” the Sibyl said, and her voice rang rich and full. “I want to keep on living forever and watching heroes and fools and knights go up and down, into the world and out. I want to keep being myself and mind the work that minds me. Work is not always a hard thing that looms over your years. Sometimes, work is the gift of the world to the wanting.”
Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
I spent much of last night, into the early morning hours actually, getting some material ready for the NGO. That was after working at the booth at the NGO fair for four hours. I resolved a technical problem last night, didn’t resolve another, but slept on it and had the solution this morning. Then I met with the Vice President of Fundraising today and we worked through some processes. One shouldn’t underestimate the value of work, even when it’s volunteer work. While one needn’t gain one’s identity from work, work provides any number of essential nurturing ingredients to one’s psyche.
I’ve run into Americans here who complain about “make work” and that such-and-such politician must owe so-and-so a favor because they’re putting people to work redoing bus stops or digging up streets or this or that. And there are the Americans who complain about the handwork, the lack of heavy equipment to speed a job to its end. I like that San Miguel lends itself to hand work rather than machine work. Narrow streets, steep hills, unevenness everywhere. Angles and curves that defy using heavy equipment in place of men. I like that I can hear workmen signal one another via a whistle – there are distinct sounds representing various actions – instead of having to use radio communications to cut through the noise of large machines. I think anything that keeps men – most especially men, who so often derive their sense of identity from being good at what they do – working and not loitering, not drinking, not scheming the next Columbine or Tucson, not harming their women friends or children – that work is so important to us all. We should not begrudge the money that goes into making society better for us all.
I know a homeowner who is proud of the fact that her painter slipped in some acrylic paint so she does not have to paint her house (located in the historic district) as often as other houses that use a traditional paint. The paint job will last eight years instead of four. I’m glad she’s saving money, but there is also a feeling that some painter will find it that much harder to feed his family (it’s highly unlikely in San Miguel the house painter would be female).
I don’t know where this emotion came from but it arose when a young woman, pushing a child in a stroller, in standard American English asked me, as I entered a store, if I spoke English. I said yes, and then she asked me for money so she could get some food in the drug store for her son. For some reason I was extremely angry and I said no, and continued into the store and she asked if I was American. Was it because I thought she was into a con? Was it because she had a stroller (a near-useless piece of equipment in San Miguel) where the littlest are carried and those who can walk, do so. Was it that I thought her an irresponsible mother, an American stranded in Mexico? Was I angry at myself for not helping her? If she were in a bad way, why hadn’t she asked any of the churches for help? Was she doing a story on Thanksgiving and the heartless ex-pats? Was she simply down on her luck? I don’t ever remember having feelings such as these. I sometimes give money to the Mexican women I see sitting on corners and in doorways and none of these questions or feelings ever arise.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I won’t be celebrating it here in Mexico, although it would be easy to do so in San Miguel. I will be thinking of friends and family though. And I will be grateful. I had dinner last night with L and her family and I am grateful that I am getting to know them. I find time spent with them magical. I am grateful to, for D, another new friend here. I received an e-card from G, in New England, whose friendship I’ve valued so much over the years. Then there’s P, the terrific intern at JA who I see just far too infrequently and the amazing D who works at JA (pictured yesterday) – both of whom are wonderful young Mexican women. The following song came to me from M, my best friend. Next week I get to visit my son and his family. The purse is so full of people to be thankful for, it just won’t close.