Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Pink Dress

The town has no name. Or maybe it does. For sure there is no sign there and I have never stopped to ask what they call this place between San Miguel de Allende and places beyond -- just a wide spot in the road with a few tiendas spattered among dingy one room houses, some with no doors, and others with no windows.

We travel this way once a week to the animal shelter between the town with no name and Queretaro to decide which animals we can find homes for, who to save and who to leave, knowing that leaving means, for most of them, there will be no next week. The town with no name has come and gone in my rearview mirror many times with never a thought.

Until today.

Slowing down to avoid a burro walking on the road, I looked up and saw the open door on a tiny bare brick home. Framed in the doorway was a little girl, maybe four years old, not more. She was standing barefooted, still, staring toward the mountains in the distance. She was wearing a pretty pink dress and she was smiling.

I drove on but her image stayed with me. Standing on that dirt floor, barefooted, not knowing that she is poor, she does not lament the fate that she will likely always be poor. And, if she remains in the town with no name, stays close to her family and her friends, she will never be a victim of the Myth of More -- the mantra of western culture that more stuff equals more happiness.

If she is fortunate, she will not win the lottery. Rather, she will never be taught that with enough money her story will somehow work out. With luck she will learn that all happiness occurs in the present -- that standing in a doorway looking at the mountains that frame a glorious background is enough, that it more than enough. She will learn that she can be still and enjoy the wind that runs through these valleys, walk the trails, and love her brothers and sisters and friends whom she will never leave. She will learn to understand that everyone gets sick and and dies, and there is no pill that will change that, and she will not be afraid because she will understand it is the natural order of things. She will never be taught to feel less because she has less and she will never feel the pain of figuring out too late that there is no amount of money on the last day of our lives we would not trade for the life of the smiling child in the pink dress in the town with no name.

That is my wish for her.

Postscript: I will never forget the image of the little girl in a pink dress framed in the doorway, just as I will not forget the little worn out tennis shoe with no laces on a young boy shining shoes outside the Tijuana airport, just as I will never forget the faces of the animals who wag their tails and lick their human captors for the slightest affection even as they face their own deaths for no just reason, but only because they were born unwanted.

Each of these images haunt me and bring tears to my eyes but I after I wipe them away I feel blessed, not because I have more but because I have learned the limitations of more, that the chase for money, stuff, success, and power is doomed because we cannot buy immortality anymore than we can buy happiness, and that we can never run fast enough or work hard enough to change the endgame.

Perhaps the best we can do is to be still, to stop running long enough to reach out to others in the hope that our understanding and compassion will lead them to a soul-fed understanding that our credible connections with friends, family, and co-workers is where life satisfaction can be found.

I will be training in Europe, Mexico, and South America from mid-August until the end of September and available by e-mail.


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