We are sufferers

Yesterday at 4am the water was turned back on in Guajoyo.  Spurting and gurgling, it stampeeded out of the several hundred spouts that bring life and water into the homes of the families in Miramar, Guajoyo, and Granzaso.

At 7am, my host family headed out into the dusty morning with buckets of dirty laundry balanced on their heads to go wash in the stream.  I have this idea that we get used to suffering, and sometimes we don’t know what to do when we don’t have to any more.

When I would go to the stream to haul water or to wash clothes and dishes, the conversation almost without fail came to the comparing game over who suffered most:

“I woke up at 4am to come wash all this laundry.”

“I made 5 trips yesterday hauling [6 gallon] canteens of water to the house”

“You all who live more uphill had water until last week, I haven’t had a drop for over a month.”

And so on, always followed by comments such as “Ay, I can’t put up with this any more!  I don’t know what we’ll do if they don’t turn the water back on soon!” And yet, when the water is turned back on, we load up our soiled belongings and trek down to the stream, we bring jugs to haul water on the return trip, and we try to work out how to fit in a few trips to the stream with cooking meals and other household chores.

But the thing is that suffering, whether it is good, bad, or neutral, becomes a way of life, a part of our daily being.  We incorporate it into our habits, we cope subconsciously.  Think about it as an injury, if you have an inured knee, you change the way you walk.  If all the time your knee is fixed, you will continue to walk the way you re-learned to.

But when change is slow, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Sometimes there are projects in the community that are intended to alleviate some suffering, but sometimes changing the habit of that suffering takes some time.  For example, the chicken coups project in Guajoyo started last year, giving the materials to around 50 women to enclose areas for their chickens.  The big drama in the community now, as we begin the second phase of the project, is that some people still have the materials rolled up under their beds.  Maybe they’re waiting for the opportune moment to build, maybe they’re afraid it will be stolen if they put it up, maybe they’re just holding onto this thing that is so valuable that was given to them.

Some people are angry about it, but I’m beginning to understand that change is a slow process, especially in a community where things happen slowly.  And that’s where solidarity comes in, because we accompany the process, we are interested in the improvement that the chicken coup will make, we don’t have to scold them, but we can ask them if the material is helping, and if not, why? how can we make it help?

Because who among us will be the first to throw a stone… who among us is not continuing to limp when the injury is gone, still trekking to the stream when there is running water in the house? Who has the financial means to buy local organic food yet we continue to buy junk that poisons our bodies and perpetuates oppression?  Who has the time to write a letter to a congressman to stop construction on poisonous pipelines but dont?

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