Friday, May 09, 2008

Pay it forward . . .

(click on image to enlarge)

The rainy season is coming in Panama and at our Roca Milagro development there is frantic activity to get things done before the annual deluge. In the top photograph, the entrada takes shape, and in the lower picture a worker works inside one of the columns making up the entrada. The insides of the columns will be filled with rubble and then capped with poured concrete, formed into planters.

Developing a project of this size can be daunting, frustrating, sometimes infuriating, but ultimately, we all hope, satisfying and rewarding. I am lucky to have a wonderful group of partners who are supportive and helpful. Thank you all -- you know who you are!

I don't like the passage of time because at my age it simply marks the inexorable march towards oblivion, but when this project is complete I will be happy to walk through all 108 acres of it and revel in what a group of dedicated individuals can accomplish. We still have a long way to go, but we are making significant progress, finally.

I was thinking back today to the days of my early teenage years and remembered a particular classmate who was shunned by others because his family was very poor, he always wore the same clothes, rarely bathed, and was cruelly called "Doodlebugs" by everyone. I was probably the only one who ever talked to him at length and who tried to treat him like a human being. I will always remember the gratitude in his eyes. I won't mention his real name here, but I learned a lot from him. I learned that my parents were right when they told me that a kind word, an act of compassion, a supportive gesture can go a long way. I try to act that way still, even though sometimes I really don't feel like it. I am particularly grateful that people around me are generally kind and supportive of me and projects I direct, including this one. It makes my life and my job much easier.

In that spirit, let's all 'pay it forward,' and extend kindness wherever and whenever we can. It will help make the world a better place, and folks -- the world needs a lot of help.

Have a great weekend.


  1. Thanks, luckyzmom. The world needs less head-butting, doesn't it?

  2. The world needs it, but does it want it, that's the key.
    Watching Amazing Grace this weekend I learned that slavery has not been abolished. 27 million people on this planet still live in some form of it, and that number is growing, not shrinking.
    As for poverty, there are reasons it exists, so there are ways out of it, and encouraging those in that situation to believe in and develop themselves is a major one.
    Sadly, there's little about most the programs claiming to "help" the poor that do anything like that...It would shrink the "market" for their institutionalized bureaucracy.

  3. It's good to see you here again!
    Kudos on your project's progress... and why am I not surprised at your kind attentions to an outsider?

  4. Ted: There is some evidence that slavery would have disappeared from the United States in a relatively short while even without the Civil War, based on purely humanitarian instincts and precedents set elsewhere as you outline in your comment. And yes, in many places in the world, human beings are simply meat to be bought and sold.

    Hi, Jean: Nice to see you too!

  5. I'm left fascinated by the re-bar arrangement in the corners. One of these days, I would like to try some masonry wall building with local materials.

    You are so right about extending kindness and encouragement to others. It doesn't always take an ineptly managed government program to make a difference.

  6. Lin: The building styles puzzle me too but that is the way things are done there. A lot of construction methods seem odd to me.

  7. Ah-ha! Sieg, you've just raised more questions for me with your reply. How about a post on what it involves to take your group's visions (and possibly a northern architect's) and then convert them to local materials and building methods. In this case, I would think it might involve several 'surprises' and impromptu work-arounds.

  8. When I get some time I may post about the challenges (and they are many) of doing anything in another country, in this case Panama. Nothing is as you expect it to be (not in itself necessarily a bad thing) and it is quite an education.

  9. A couple years ago a movie called, Pay It Forward, came out. It showed the ripple effects of showing kindness. We are only one, but one CAN make a difference.

    Good to see you back. :o)

    link to the movie: