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Welcome to my blog and website, I hope you find your visit interesting.

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.

-- Mark Twain

Helping others help themselves

Friday, 09 January 2015

So how are things going for me? You ask? Well, actually, nobody asked. But I will write a little about it anyway.

In 2006, Tucson Arizona, my wife, Cheryl, and we thought we had a future. We had plans to build a house on a 1 acre lot, which we already owned, in the Sonoran desert. I designed the house and had an architect draw up the plans. Then my job went away, her job went away, and we both worked contract jobs. The architect committed fraud, not just against us but against several other clients as well. We never built the house. But we still had the future. Then in 2010 my 48 year old wife of 28 years suffered a massive stroke, and 3 days later died. What future? At that age the future is still very big. What future? So you or I have a future? I hope so. But, we don't know.

That was a life changing time for me. The following two years were a living hell. I finally clawed my way out of it and after a decent year I discovered what it meant to teach english as a foreign language. In the intervening years, I learned what it meant to live with virtually nothing as I spiraled downward, selling everything I owned just to pay rent and not be living on the street. I was terribly in debt, am still, to one person. He says he has forgiven me of the debt, but I will never forget, I will never be able to forgive myself, of what it cost him.

I decided it was time to change the way I lived my life. No more day to day grind to earn enough to pay the bills and just live. Selfishly. Just living my own, selfish life. I changed my way of thinking in those years. I changed my way of thinking to thinking that maybe it is better to help others improve their lives, not just myself. There are poeple all over the world that could benefit from what I know. And what do I know more than anything? My language. Sure I know plenty of other stuff - physical fitness, computers, shipping/receiving, marketing, convenience store managing. But to share my language? What does that do to benefit another person? Plenty!

It gives the person a chance to get a much better job, much better pay, and gets them out of the low-paying job rut. It moves their family into a better position for future generations. That is what I am here to help them with - they learn english, they can get a better job, improve their families living situation for now and the future. Being here teaching english isn't about me. It's about others. And I love watching people learn and use the new language they are learning. And knowing that it is improving their life situation - that's something beyond measure, beyond anything you can imagine without actually experiencing it.

Before I came to Colombia I visited many people in Washington and Arizona - friends and relatives. Most of whom were negative in their response to my plan to go to Colombia and teach english. In fact, if I remember correctly, there were 2 or 3 people with a positive response to it. Interesting. Why? Why so few people with a positive response? Looking at who those 2 or 3 people are I see this: one person who has spend many years outside the USA learning about other cultures and now teaching about those other cultures. One person who is a school teacher. And the other a person close to my heart and was simply excited by the prospects of what it had in store for me in a new chapter of my life.

What about all those others? Why so negative? What I am doing is helping other people, not myself. I gave up my job and home in Tucson Arizona and now live to help other people improve their own lives. This isn't about someone simply learning a new language for the sage of learning. It is about empowering these people to get a new, much better job. Thus improving not only their own life, but the lives of their families, their futures. This is much more than just going to a community college and picking some subject for self-improvement. That is the common thing to do in many countries. But here that is not an option. There are no community colleges. When one finishes the 11 year of school they choose to either go to work or to a university. There is nothing in between. Oh, there are a few trade schools for learning a specific trade, but no community college as is common in many countries. And here if you do not go to a university then you work at a low paying job, earning enough to live your life and that's about it. That is how it goes from father to son, from mother to daughter, generation after generation.

So I wonder - what are you doing with your life? Living you daily life to get you and your family from one day to the next with little or no thought about anyone else. That is the most common scenario. And some of those who do that, I know this for a fact, have more than enough to do something for others, but they don't. Am I saying that they should sell everything and move to another country and help other people? No, obviously that's not an option for most. But there are ways to help that do not include relocating to another country. And they know that. And many think that by giving to a charity or to a church is helping the less fortunate, and that makes them feel good inside. When in reality, just how much of that which they give actually goes to the people they think they are helping? A very small percentage. What happens to the rest? Administrative costs, pockets of the people in leadership. Sure giving to charities and the church are good things to do, but what about the others that are out in the world working, selflessly, to help other people improve their lives? The ones who are not sponsored by an organization or church? They are not good enough for your support? Becuase your help to them is not tax deductible? What shame such an attitude is. And it is very real. Many very good people, with the means to help in such situations, don't even realize it, but that is their attitude. Or they simply want to horde all the savings they can "for the future". Today is here and now. You have today. Do you have tomorrow? If you answer that Yes, how do you know? Do you have a future? Yes? How do you know?

So how is this new chapter in my life progressing? Honestly, it's not easy. It has been difficult from the start. With no support from anybody I have had been struggling to get by, but I am surviving, because that's the way I am. The amount of money I earn here is a fraction of what I was earning in Arizona when I left. And even though the cost of living is much lower here, I still earn barely enough to pay the bills, let alone buy food. At least right now, that's the way it is. Food? What's that? Right now I have none. Two days ago I finished the last of the pasta, I have a little pasta soup I made left in the fridge for when I get really hungry. Last night for dinner - popcorn. But now that's gone. Otherwise, it's just water. I had started exercising again. About 2 months ago. I go to the park and exercise and run. But am stopping that until I get some food again. The "winter" months, there is no winter here, of December and January, are vacation months here. So my students are either not taking classes now or are taking fewer classes. I did sell my 32" TV and my new, in September, washing machine, so I could pay the rent. The electric bill is overdue. But my landlord is very understanding, and I still have electricity. And I am behind on my January rent. But I am a survivor, and I will get through this month. I spoke to a man about him taking lessons with me. He said yes, he would, and we scheduled him for 3 2-hour lessons per week. Fantastic! Except he forgot and missed the first day, then the second day didn't bother to come to the lesson and I haven't heard from him since. So I can't count on him as a new student, apparently. I have passed out over a hundred flyers and cards with my info on them, and gotten zero responses. My current two students found my ad on a classified ads web site. I keep that updated. People are unreliable. That's my tagline - people are unreliable. Not just here, everywhere. People are unreliable.

My purpose in writing isn't to drum up financial contributions, though they are always welcome. It is to open some eyes. To help some people realize that there is more to life than the daily grind. There are others in the world that could benefit from what you have reaped. Sharing is not difficult. Caring seems to be. What do you care about? Yourself? Your family? Of course you do. But there is more than that to our lives. Or at least, there should be. You can read about helping others. You can watch TV programs that show people helping others. Here I am in Colombia actually doing it. Do you care? From what I have seen in the last 1 1/2 years - no. Why?

I love it here in Colombia. It hasn't been easy, but I still am committed to doing what I love doing - teaching english. For me, it's all about helping others to help themselves.


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