Where fun is free

Over the course of the day today, I and others in the group discovered, again, a lesson we can and should learn from those we support:

Having fun doesn’t require money.

We’ve all learned this a thousand times. We receive an expensive gift for Christmas but have more fun with a worn deck of cards. We buy fancy easels and special paper for the kids to paint on, but they are so much happier with a bucket of sidewalk chalk and a stretch of concrete. (Or a living room wall and a box of crayons…) The amusement park makes for a fun vacation, but everyone laughs just as much on a family bike ride.

Having fun doesn’t require money.

The Pimpollos understand this better than anyone I’ve met. Julie commented today that they manage to have a great time doing nothing, using nothing. There are no expensive easels at Pimpollo, but a group of kids spent two hours making chalk paintings and loving it. The swing is made of metal and isn’t very comfortable, but that doesn’t stop them from giggling as they try to touch the leaves of the nearby trees. They don’t have a lot of material belongings, but their ingenuity and attitudes turn the tiniest piece of rotten fruit into a soccer ball.

We went to visit Juana’s family tonight, and I met another family that doesn’t need material items to have fun. We’ve written about Juana before, but just in case you’ve forgotten, she lives with her three kids, her sister, and one of our college scholarship girls in a one bedroom house here in Juchitan. There was space for us to sit, but most had to use the beds because they have no couch and few chairs. The walls are full of extention cords to carry electricity, and the “eaves” are insulated with cardboard. None of that mattered. We spent two hours having a grand time, telling jokes and stories and taking photos. Juana and her kids had laughter on the tip of their tongues, and it didn’t take much to get Manuelito rolling on the floor. The tiny house was quickly forgotten as the good times began to roll.

I went to the dollar store before I left and bought some gifts- bouncy balls, card decks, crayons, hair ties. Mostly games, and nothing special. I figured I could use them when we got bored, when we needed something to animate us. Tomorrow is our last day at Pimpollo, and I haven’t even touched them. We’ve spent our time swinging, dancing, teaching English words, taking pictures, drawing, having conversations, walking, holding babies, talking, talking, talking. Most of them want to play or talk with us, not get stuff from us. The most useful item in my suitcase is a small album of family photos that I threw in at the last minute.

No matter how many times I’ve learned about having fun with nothing, I always get home and return to materialism once again. This time, I’ve had amazing teachers I’ll never be able to forget. The next time I fret about money or buy expensive gifts, I think I’ll just have to remember Pimpollo, where fun is free.