“We are all such escape artists, you and I. We don’t like to get too serious about things, especially about ourselves. When we are with other people, we are apt to talk about almost anything under the sun except for what really matters to us, except for our own lives, except for what is going on inside our own skins. We pass the time of day. We chatter. We hold each other at bay, keep our distance from each other even when God knows it is precisely each other that we desperately need.” Frederick Buechner
Jama Ecuador – Buechner’s words articulate this past week’s experience as I’ve taken a slower & meandering trail through earthquake-ravaged Jama. Those that I’ve spoken with have learned the above lessons, and circumstances have steered our conversations to tones of sobering seriousness. We also find humor, though a heavy undercurrent flows through the entire area.
People are smiling, people have hope, yet there is a different energy of emotional heaviness, of unspoken weariness. I feel it in my own body, as if a bit of each person’s story climbed aboard my own soul, much like shipwreck survivors clinging to a random plank in the ocean. It’s as if the unspoken emotions transmute into energies that permeate the entire area.
With empathy I listen, and sometimes we sit in what Thoreau referred to as quiet desperation. They are all moving forward, though at times it does not seem fast enough. I think it’s the waiting that’s most difficult, knowing what to expect yet the process is painfully slow. The area personifies “One day at a time.”
One doesn’t really realize this when in transit, stopping for a few hours then moving on. It takes trust between the ones sharing stories and the ones who listen, and it takes hours of listening more than talking. At times it will all but break a sensitive person’s heart.
My needs are so tiny, yet by the end of each day the exhaustion all but consumes me. If this is affecting me so greatly, what must it feel like to have endured this for 8 months? Those at Playa El Matal have faced three years of challenges – first from the ocean and then the earthquake; they are the heroes and heroines worthy of badges of bravery and valor.
Several people have contributed to Luchy’s roofing project at Hostal Palo Santo. (See previous post).. If you would like to contribute, write me, and I’ll share the most-direct option via MoneyGram to Luchy. His first gift was sent yesterday, and I was the true benefactor just for the gift of witnessing his reaction. He was sobered that a stranger would reach out and help from across the globe.
I will close with an excerpt from Frederick Buechner’s A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces. It echoes what I witnessed this past week: