In a word, what they have, is heart
Some like scientific research based on populations of modern people living in contexts familiar to them. I prefer to delve deeply into worlds apart, where people live, and have been living, in certain ways for centuries. These are ways that reveal to me where landscapes are fertile, and health thrives.
So I spent most of the fall living with my four children on a "finca", or property, outside of Chinandega Nicaragua. It's a poor place by many standards. People literally live hand to mouth. Work as we know it, is hard to come by. And some days even in-tact and functioning families find themselves without basics such as food and water. What they do have, however, abounds: Life, and deeply interwoven connection between all living creatures. The lack of order and organization lends to a wildness and fertility that often we call "third world". It's an untamed landscape where one must rely on their senses and own physical capacities to "make it". In a word, what they have, is HEART.
The sun set every night at 5:30, and after a simple dinner we'd climb into bed. Sometimes we found ants in our beds, or beetles. Or scorpions on the wall. Or woke up to a snake just outside the door. Or a sign of a mouse in the kitchen. And just off the porch one day, beneath our lime tree, a dragon fly pulling on something in the ground caught my eye. I went closer and closer until I could discern what it was: A TARANTULA!!! Ai Dios!! Maybe I should put my shoes on now. This feels like too much.
And then I would see Juana. Walking in her majestic way. Barefoot again. At all hours of the day. Slow and steady and sure. This mother of three (ages 17 mos., 5 years and 9 years) lives here. Every day. Somedays picking extra long mosquitos out of the crotch of a banana tree and gathering them in her hand. "These carry an awful infection that can make the children sick," she told me. Or looking up at a papaya tree and pointing to the worm eating a papaya. "That's what's ruining the fruit," she tells her 9 year old. And he gets a stick to get it down and study/play with the gusano! Or, from my point of view, make it go away.
Everyday she walked barefoot through the property, watching, listening. One day she said to me "the rain is coming now." How does she know, I wondered. Some days it just clouds with no rain. "Listen," she says. "You can hear it coming our way." It was like a drumbeat that I could only hear when she showed me how. And that's how it is with native ways. Someone, someone slow and connected enough, someone who knows there is gold inside of their ability to walk in peace, barefoot and at home in their nakedness, has to show us. Has to teach us to listen and hear and feel for ourselves what we really seek to know.
This is my service work this year. Being there on those grounds, converting a parcel 40 feet x 20 feet into a protected, walled space with 14 double-dug beds for organic seeds we donated, so that all who are there may eat. Every day.