Millie Beall: Life is good
Sitting at my kitchen table, computer humming and Internet readily available at my fingertips, I am connected. The washing machine is doing my work for me as I ponder the effort of sorting out my Christmas decorations stored away long ago in a closet. Snow is gently falling, and it is lovely as I am comfortably warmed by the combination of electric heat and gas stove. The dog is curled in his favorite living room chair and the local flock of grosbeaks has arrived for their share of the day’s sunflower seed offerings. I feel so grateful and so blessed.
Close to a year ago, my husband and I were in Latin America, anxiously awaiting our airline flight back to the United States of America. We had completed our 27-month service in the Peace Corps. We were anxious about the conditions of our country about which we had heard so much in news reports. The recession was hitting hard in our native land. What would everything be like in North America, the “land of opportunity”?
We had become accustomed to life in Bolivia and Costa Rica. Peace Corps assignments generally are in small rural communities, typically many hours from the major cities and accessible to volunteers by public transportation only. Generally speaking, volunteers are to become active members of the community, assisting in their development within any number of various programs. Life is different. There is a possibility of electricity when there is electricity; running tap water when it is running. Transportation is scheduled, but whether it actually happens is determined by various factors. Communication for us had been pretty good in most places with at least a local phone booth. We were grateful when any of these were available. In other words, we had been living in areas where there were grand lessons to be learned in the areas of endurance, patience and gratitude.
We learned to shower whenever the water was flowing, and to keep flashlights, batteries and candles readily available. I perfected the art of washing laundry in a small bucket (even sheets and towels) and purchased desired products when they actually were available on the shelf for they may never be seen again. I had to be sure to buy stove gas when available. We would write our e-mails on the laptop and keep them ready to send when the opportunity arose. It wasn’t difficult but often was challenging.
But don’t get me wrong. We did not suffer, we just adapted. We were living the life, and it was what it was — but we lived with the knowledge that we would be coming home. I knew that I again would be sitting at this very table, in these beautiful surroundings, with all these conveniences. I knew I would return to my wonderful community. I appreciate this place, this community of people, so very much more than I already had appreciated it. I appreciate the fact that I was born in this nation. I feel we are so very fortunate.
Yes, we are in a recession here in the United States of America. But even with this present situation, we are a strong country, an organized society that fights back when there are setbacks. Even in these difficult times, I am able to sit at this table in comfort, and I have so much opportunity to move ahead and plan for the future.
I think of my families in Bolivia and in Costa Rica. They, too, are feeling the effect of the global recession. It is but one more layer of concern and hardship for those families who confront setbacks each and every day of their lives and have so little opportunity for future planning.
It is difficult to understand the negativity we have seen and heard since our return to this land. Life offers so many opportunities here. We need to all be grateful that we were born in the United States of America. I never hesitate to remind my friends and neighbors of this simple truth. We just need to work together during these difficult times, work for the good of all. Perhaps each of us needs to sacrifice a bit for those who are more in need within our own communities. We are truly a fortunate people.
Millie Beall, longtime resident of Steamboat Springs, age 60, served in the Peace Corps in Bolivia 2007-08 and Costa Rica 2008-09
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