Alms is a word seldom used today. It is better relegated to another era, many of us might think. However, set against a backdrop of poverty, it is a word and concept very much alive to Ecuador. I see it often in the cities, towns and hamlets I visit.
In my travels, I have seen various degrees of everything and poverty is among them. The manner it is dealt with varies widely around the globe. Ecuador is a country that has a seemingly unique approach to this age-old problem.
It’s very cool because it’s very simple. Everyone gives. That’s it. Nothing fancy. All people step to the plate and give to the needy. Everyone gives something, even if they seem to be in perilous need themselves. And, that’s where it starts eliciting that humbling feeling for me at about a million miles an hour.
In Ecuador, it’s pretty liberating to be able to pass out a little cash here and there. I see others helping others all the time and it’s great to be in the game. It doesn’t take much to help. But, like anything else, I let my heart be my guide and my head serves as a good tempering agent. Spreading any goodness you have will put help in more places. It’s simple enough.
Just so I’m clear, here’s what I’m writing about. The toughest vendor in the mercado who can’t ever find you any yapa or a nickel discount will be quick to reach in their pouch and hand over fifty cents to a needy person asking for help. Yeah, I know, the first time I saw it my jaw dropped too.
As would be expected in this culture, it is almost exclusively the extreme elderly, the physically handicapped or tragedy stricken refugees who ask for help. However, everyone who asks seems to receive something from most people.
She was waiting outside on the steps of the church like many others; waiting, hoping for something, such small change can mean so much to the quality of a life that’s been torn asunder.
A great spirit resides in the hearts of Ecuadorian people. The spirit of giving shines forth as a bright light pouring from a beacon of hope. It’s on the faces of the people I see, and I hope to mirror it back to them. And, as I shared, it deeply humbles me. Perspective begins to write on the heart. Its instrument of recordation is sharp and it slashes deep into the emotions. No blood springs forth from this cut though, only the compelling desire to reach more folks in the streets, under the bridges, but above all, on their turf, that’s where I go to meet them because that’s where they are in need.
If you come across the truly needy, please feed them with good thoughts and in good spirit, supplementing that cheer with a little jingle from your pocket. I’m thanking you in advance for your kindest of gestures, your smile and good words are highly valuable, they will spend a long ways.
After a successful career in manufacturing, Brian Buckner sold his
commercial window fabrication plant and now makes his home with his
wife, Edie, in Cuenca. He is a photojournalist and writer currently
producing photo essays and stories of life in Ecuador. He and his wife
enjoy hiking, photography, writing and giving their time to those in
need. Brian may be reached by email at email@example.com.