In conversation this week, our coordinator pointed to a key concept for wellbeing: satisfaction. This is a crucial yet somewhat elusive element, because what brings satisfaction for one will not necessarily bring satisfaction for another. The basic elements are simple, but satisfaction can be hard to find when there are obstacles in our path, as there certainly are for the people in displaced communities. To seek justice and healing from wrongs suffered, and to endeavor to build a new life in a strange environment—these are major challenges for the displaced, who are thrust onto a path with an unknown destination. In moments like these, they rely on the inner strength that comes from God to follow the path and trust that new community will emerge to help them overcome their obstacles. Joining together is key to finding satisfaction and fulfillment along the road. Here are a few observations from our encounters with the displaced this past week:
For the woman whose family left a good life, with abundant physical comforts and ample food, where is satisfaction? She says that she is glad to be here, even without some of the basic comforts of home, because here she is not afraid. Home was comfortable but insecure after first one and then another armed group had come through and taken over the town. Here she has been part of building a new community and finding opportunities to work together. For her, there is the satisfaction of renewed peace of mind.
This is not the case for the couple with two small children. They live in a community whose population is a combination of the traditional poor and the displaced, a community which has been newly threatened by a neo-paramilitary group. Just a week ago they received a letter identifying a dozen young men from the community who have been targeted for “cleansing.” This same letter imposed a curfew on the community, and parents were warned with a sinister rhyme: Si su hijo es sano, acuéstelo temprano, si es ladrón, cómprele el cajón (If your son is healthy, put him to bed early, if he’s a thief, buy him a coffin). For this couple, active in community initiatives for peaceful development, continued fear and insecurity are an obstacle to a sense of wellbeing and satisfaction.
What about the group of displaced farmers who have been working for the past year on a farm near Piojó? They have made great progress with the land, but the weather has made it difficult to grow a substantial crop. Last year, huge downpours of rain swept away much of their seed and left little growing. This year they are still waiting for rain, and food is scarce. They live a painful uncertainty of not having enough food to eat and not having official title to their land, and yet find satisfaction in being situated where they are, able to make an attempt at growing their own food and sustaining their families.
As we reflect on the diverse experiences of these people, it is clear that satisfaction is not out of reach for the displaced. The basic elements of life are part of God’s plan for us, and everyone has a right to them. “It is God’s good gift that all should eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil” (Ecclesiastes 3:13). Satisfaction is the fruit of constructive work and creativity, but it cannot thrive for most people in the face of fear and intimidation.
Every day we encounter people with obstacles in their way, and we have the opportunity to face them together. By helping with their obstacles we are also clearing the path for ourselves and for others who are traveling behind us. Sometimes we can provide material assistance, sometimes we can lend our voices to the clamor for justice, and other times we can simply offer the listening ears and supportive presence of a community of care. May God give us ears to hear and eyes to see the ways we can be community to one another in the search for abundant life with satisfaction for all.
written with Tomás Sandoval