By Briana Sadowski, Cedarville University group member, guest post
We’re on the way back, and for me this time on the plane is always one of
reflecting on all that I saw, heard, and learned here in another country. First of all,
it’s important to mention that not all countries in one region are the same. There
can be a tendency to think that – for example – cultures are the same in all of
Central America, a region not too large. However, each country and people has
their own culture. This I learned since my first trip to the Dominican Republic.
When someone asks me how to describe the people and place of the Dominican
Republic, I always answer with the same word: community. The idea of
community is not as common in more individualistic countries. I mean, we have
neighborhoods – a concept of living close to other families.
But what does community mean? The Dominican people know how to define it
well. For them, community means three things: sharing generously, living
together (physically and figuratively), and loving others.
First: sharing generously. It is so clear from the moment one arrives at a
community that all the members share what they have. If someone is sick,
another comes to prepare them food. If one child goes to a neighbor’s house, this
neighbor treats him as one of their own children. Even when someone is selling
goods or services (this happened to me as well), they give without thinking twice
about the cost. One woman that braids hair on the beaches for a living offered to
braid mine. I responded that the braids were indeed beautiful but that I hadn’t
brought money that day for anything, so I could not. Without even hesitating, she
answered me saying that she would prefer to do a favor for someone because
life is not all about money. So I sat down for a time with her, and as she braided
my hair we talked about her and her family. She did not have to offer me
anything, but she desired to show me love.
Next: living together. When we visited the communities, often we saw that they
were caring for each other all the time. We came to a house to help clean it out
with the man, and the neighbors not only came out and helped, but also were
making decisions for him. We would ask the neighbors questions and they would
respond in his place. Why? Because they all live life together, and know the
needs, preferences, and persons that they are living with.
Finally: loving others. Even though the community members literally have been
born and grown up in the same community (and therefore know each other quite
well), they open their doors so that other visitors or new guests can come in. I
think this part could be the most difficult to implement. They are very close to
each other, and have no obligation to allow or invite visitors, but they go ahead
and do so with love and care. They build and maintain relationships not only with
those within their own community but also with those outside that desire to get to
know them. This impacted me greatly because, being my second time visiting, I
saw that I could continue the relationships that I had the privilege to make with
those there, and I also had the chance to meet new people who with joy invited
me to share in their lives and begin to get to know them.
Dominicans have shown me a great picture of what a community looks like, and
although I do not live in towns built such as theirs, I too can invite others to enter
into my life, with the hope of maintaining relationships and sharing whether it be
materials, time, encouragement, etc. We have the power to create community
wherever we live!
"We have the power to create community wherever we live!
What have you observed about community where you are? If you've served with Makarios in the D.R. in the past and have a special take-away about what community looks like here, please comment!