Parallel lines never cross, though they may run close together without touching. But what I truly love are the meeting points where the lines find each other: the intricate play of tree branches; the light woven in and through the fibers of a tapestry or shimmering in water. Playful circles overlap, and suddenly an integrated masterpiece takes shape, a landscape created by converging lines and points that inundate our eyes with exuberant imagery every second of our lives.
This is a true story, set right here in Buncombe County. Anita Flores—an honest, hard-working, 41-year-old woman—cleans houses from dawn to dusk so she can provide for her two children and aging parents.
Five years ago, her father suffered a stroke and has been comatose and bedridden ever since. Anita and her mother have cared for him with total devotion, but the cost of special food, diapers, lotions and medicines has taken a giant slice of their limited budget.
Meanwhile, I’ve seen Anita’s mom’s health decline severely as well. Five years ago, she was a strong woman; now she’s skinny and worn out. She’s lost most of her teeth, and she rarely smiles, whether due to shame over all those missing teeth or to the isolation and endless grind imposed by these sad circumstances.
Her greatest comfort is the memories of her tropical hometown, Sonsonate in El Salvador. She remembers long walks hand in hand with her beloved husband, or preparing her favorite food, or walking to the market. And then she wakes up to confront once again a harsh reality.
As the days go by, I’ve seen Anita growing weaker, more frustrated and depressed, exhausted not only by her hard physical work but by the huge emotional toll of always having to be strong to provide for her children and parents, pay the mortgage and all the bills, and meet the basic needs for daily survival.
Not long ago, her father suffered a severe pancreas complication that took him back to the hospital. The surgery went well, but the hospital bills were added to the already crushing burden on Anita’s shoulders.
If her parents were back in El Salvador, all the members of their large family would pitch in to help care for their dad. There’s also a good chance that Anita’s mom would recover her health and strength there. Anita, meanwhile, would be able to focus on being a mom to her children.
We are living at a focal point in history—a hard time but also a privileged one. The considerable challenges we face underscore the need for each of us to intertwine our individual efforts with those of our neighbors. There’s an unlimited power to life lived fully, and we are all part of one another’s success and happiness. Working together, we can find the strength to dream—against all odds.
But embracing the dream means helping forge it, and it begins with small projects that start in the hearts of individuals.
Even here in Asheville, there are parallel realities and lives that never cross: people in need and people willing to help. In this case, a generous local doctor made the difference, arranging for Anita’s parents to fly back to El Salvador. Her father, Mr. Armando Flores, is greatly improved, and Yolanda, his wife, finally has a normal life again.
It was a wonderful gesture by an anonymous donor, and it makes such a nice, happy ending to my story. But right here in our little corner of the world, there are so many more women, men and children who are in deep distress, longing for a little hope and support.
Each of us has the capacity to prevent one woman from confronting the outer limits of despair. Working together, we can reach so many more, and in the process, we’ll be planting the seeds of a healthy community that will help its children become more sensitive and productive adults.
And so I address you, dearest readers, sharing the incessant urgency I feel to be part of a larger tapestry. We must make a start, intertwining the fibers of our hearts and our shared strength to create a true community project, concrete and efficient, that can then inspire others and, thus, rapidly expand. In this way, we can transform this great nation, leading it to new heights that are not even imaginable now.
This is the true meaning of the pervasive calls for change: Yes, we can!
[Born in Quito, Ecuador, Carmen Alicia Moncayo has lived in Asheville since 1998, teaching ESL in a church-based program in Weaverville. She believes home is the place our heart chooses to love.]