THE ONES WHO HAVE THE LEAST, ARE THE ONES WHO GIVE THE MOST

            Familiar with a life of “commodities” I decided to step aside in order to put myself into the -very old and used- shoes of others. Right the instant in which we started this route, it was as if a receiving mode was turned on. It specifically started with a big and heart-warming smile, as well as a very pleasant conversation with John; the designated taxi driver in charge of taking us into our new home. Once we arrived at Juan de Padilla street, America and Fernando came outside and hugged us as if we already knew each other. Truly, one of the warmest, soul stirring welcoming of my life.

            Hence, it was a home, not a house. And it was ourhome for the following 5 weeks. And America and Fernando; our family. It was with such naturality that they not only opened the doors of their home, but they also opened the doors of their lives to us. It is impressive how easy it was for them to treat us with love and to give us the highest possible comfort. From that moment on, I began to know another form of charity, another form of love, shaped with pure authenticity, simply a genuine kind. During my second week in Quito, I got a pretty bad cold, which was not unexpected due to the type of contact I shared with the kids along with the lack of hygiene in their lives and in the site I was working at. Regardless of my desire to serve, I stayed home one day in order to rest and lower my fever. And although our program only included breakfast and dinner, throughout this whole week, America prepared natural teas to ameliorate my congestion, warm veggie soups for lunch and plenty of attention accompanied with hugs. 

            A good dosage of love came with every meal America prepared, needless to add, she made sure Antoine would try each Ecuadorian traditional cuisine recipe! As for me, a vegetarian with a prominent gluten intolerance, I received the most ingenious GF and veggie versions of these plates. Which made me realize how to so many of us, these dietary restrictions could be troubling and discouraging in the kitchen. Nevertheless, America took this as a learning opportunity. She enthusiastically told me since my first day that she had done research on what I could, and I could not eat. And it was with this same enthusiasm that she prepared all of our meals. 

            One night after a hike in Quilotoa, we were returning full of dust, sweat and fatigue. Eager to go home, shower and eat America’s amazing dinners. But when we arrived, there was no power. We decided to rather laugh about this situation, and just like America, use it as a self-growth opportunity. After all, that was what this experience was about. Long-story-short, we had no power for 4 whole days. Yet, during the second day, our host parents suggested that we stay at a hostal that they would pay for. Only until the issue was fixed so that we could be comfortable. Honestly, we could not believe it, what a genuine generosity! Thus, we kindly denied the offer and decided to experience the adventure of life under dim candlelight instead of electricity, which made our dinners even cozier. 

            Just like these punctual anecdotes marked the beginning of our adventure, the daily love and appreciation we received from the kids as well as from the organizers of VCE and UBECI non-profit organizations, were the essence of this journey. We experienced unconditional love, every single day! In addition to this, we were witnesses of their trust and gratitude to us. As the reserved individual I am, I developed a receptiveness and got to encounter a new and honest way of sharing. I felt it in simple things, such as dances the kids would ‘gift’ to us and fruits they would gladly share, even when it was the only one, they had. Their eagerness to braid my hair or to play soccer with me -although I have a below-zero talent for this sport-. The stories they would share with us, and their bear hugs that most often than not, left buggers and dirt on my sweater. Their tears from darkness in search of sunlight, their will to learn what we had prepared to teach them, and above it all; their smiles when they saw us. I truly hope one day I can reach such a level of altruistic generosity toward the world.

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