By Stephanie Fisk
The simple life is not always easy. But it is liberating. Simplicity ushers in true joy that can be found only in life itself. For when life is all you have, you begin to see value in each day, in each conversation, in each word that is spoken… and more importantly, the person sitting right beside you.
Buenas tardes, I shout to Angl as I veer off the gravel road towards his cream-colored cement house. For the past three afternoons, I have been warmly welcomed into his family as though we have been life-long friends. Today is Sunday, and Angl is working on a bed frame. Bueas tardes, Senorita. Psale, he replies. Come in, come in.
I duck under a low hanging palm tree branch and maneuver my way around the bright- pink, flowering plants. I pass by Arthuro, one of Angls nephews, who is helping out his uncle by staining some of the wood for the bed frame. The eight-year-old rushes to the porch gate, opens it for me and quickly grabs one of their hand-crafted chairs for me to sit on. Muchas gracias. I accept their sincere hospitality and humbly take a seat.
Amalia and Vicki, two of Angls daughters, quickly appear from inside the house. They easily surrender their mop and cooking apron to join me on the porch. After catching up for awhile, seven-year-old Dulce, complete with her two long, brown pigtails, runs around the corner with Canela, their pet parrot, perched on her shoulder. A huge smile appears on her face as she rushes towards me and jumps onto my lap. Her smile is a direct kiss from God that gently touches my very soul. She starts to giggle, and soon the parrot jumps in and begins to mimic her. Before we know it, all of us were laughing uncontrollably. The kind of laughter that causes your cheeks to ache from smiling too much!
As the laughter fades, Amalia retreats into the house, but quickly reappears with their family photo album. Their entire life is captured in this thin stack of photos that is no thicker than a 70 paged notebook. Each picture represents a precious memory that brings smiles to each of their faces. I also pull out some of my own pictures of my family and friends. Angl stops working on the bed, and the kids stop playing soccer. Everyone gathers around in order to enter into my life. They want to listen to my stories. What a gift to enter fully into another persons life through sharing treasured memories and stories.
After sharing our pasts, Amalia grabs my hand and eagerly shows me the present. She leads me throughout their land. Black and white chickens dot the countryside and serenade us as we stroll under the hot afternoon sun. Two straggly puppies clumsily chase each other around the yard and every once in a while cause a ruckus among the chickens.
As we descend the hill, I notice the abuelita washing clothes in the stream. A large slab of stone, two wooden boards, some soap, a running stream and a nearby tree serve as the perfect washer and dryer. Bueas tardes, I remark, as we cross over their water source. Bueas tardes, Senorita, replies abuelita, looking up from her clothes pile. Her toothless smile shines radiantly from her dark, sun-weathered face.
Along our little trek, Amalia proudly points out their garden, the fruit and rubber trees, a variety of plants with medicinal and aromatic properties and then, we come upon a half-finished cement structure. This is mine, she exclaims. Her face is beaming with joy. When I get money, I buy a brick. Someday, this will be my house. She does not seem the least bit fazed that it might literally take years to complete her house. She is content and fully satisfied with the fact that she will one day have a place to call her ownto clean her own floor and cook in her own kitchen. A little hand grabs my hand. Dulce leads me back down the hill, over the stream, up the hill, through the chicken patch and up to the front porch all on her little bare feet.
I yearn for a life like this. A simple life that invites others in. A life that draws me fully into the world. A life that rejoices in waking with the sunrise. A life that finds contentment in every situation. A life that embraces interruptions as divine appointments from God.
Simplicity is an irreplaceable teacher. It has freed me from the bondage of time and material possessions that can slowly numb a person to the abundant joy found in life. Currently, for me, the simple life involves living out of a backpack. Taste and see that the Lord is good.