Sunday, December 12, 2010
True confession: I've always wanted to be a philanthropist when I grow up. It's a laughable idea considering the state of my finances but is it strictly related to money? "Love of mankind," reads my mini dictionary. In this way I'd agree that my curiosity of people in general has been approached with love, openness and wonder. It's an intrigue to be part of peoples lives for a while to discover their secrets to unbridled joy in the midst of so little. While we seem to suffer under a pile of stuff that remains to be edited, continuing to accumulate mindlessly, so caught up in the constant distractions of our culture.
Recent thoughts on philanthropy brought me to the back of my closet to unearth a custom made sweater from a woman's co-op in Ecuador, that I never wore. This was the stage in my life, my mid 30's, when Rob and I first got together as a writer/photographer team in South America. Part of our job for this child sponsorship organization was to visit projects that had been supported by doners in 14 countries from Australia, North America, Japan and Europe. We were their eyes and hearts for a while, which gave us the honour to be the guests of many villages and to be welcomed to their inner circles. This particular woman's group was typical in that they gathered regularly to create and keep the operation going while their leader, always a man, was away to work in the states. In the vast remote mountain area of Bolivar, this group sat perched on a precipice, chatting, laughing at us, and with us, wearing their specific hats identifying their indigenous group and their status within it. It had seemed to us that the women were responsible for keeping the culture alive with their traditional dress, while the men had to leave in flocks for economic reasons. These women made the best of it.
As specified, the sweater has trees all over it, purple ones with grey fruit and red falling snow. I've decided to give it away as part of my personal wealth; it's time to let go and be selective of the stuff I choose to hang on to. I want to act locally as well as globally. Though few people in my life would appreciate such a quirky and precious item, so loaded with history, who would also be the right size. For a week now, I've been packing the bag around waiting to encounter one of my favorite young women at our local cafe. Here's a funny thing, the recipient of my philanthropy seems to be missing in action.