España

I can’t stop watching the old men in Castilblanco.

They catch me staring and smile.

Sitting on patio chairs at tables sprinkled along the sidewalk, they have animated conversations over coffee or beer. They look relaxed, full of life and often mischievous. One man always has his shirt buttons mismatched (but he makes it work) and sits with his little dog, Macho.

Groups of elderly women in floral dresses gather in the narrow streets as the sun sets, marking the end of siesta. 

Why is this so foreign to me?

I have grandparents!

But in Castilblanco, all ages are integrated. The elderly are not pushed to one side of the neighborhood. You see them in street, in the daily routine as they enjoy life and friendship.

My heart has yearned for a place like this yet my mind couldn’t process what it wanted. Now it has a clear picture.

It’s simple.

An environment that respects nature, values life, enjoys walking slowly and taking care of others; the very young and the very old.

I realize no place is perfect. That we do the best we can, make the most out of life. The human spirit is resilient and can find love, joy and peace anywhere.

Yet how a culture is constructed affects us every day, subtly and significantly.

What do we value more?

Family or material?
Community or status?
Compassion or policy?

I hardly speak Spanish but no one tells me to go home.

Castilblanco is not my mother land yet I feel taken care of. 

So what does it come down to?

What can we do?

That's a question I won't pretend to know the answer to but it is obvious that our systems are not designed for nature to thrive.

And until they are, neither will we.