Have you ever asked yourself about your gifts? What is a gift? Do you have gifts? What kind of gift or how many gifts do you have? And if you have ever asked yourself these questions (we all have gifts), have you used your gifts properly, generously? In the native communities in Mexico, everybody knows their gifts and uses them for the welfare of the whole community. People in these ancestral towns call this action Tequio. They think that all we are or have in the present time is thanks to the determination of our ancestors, who planned and constructed their town, schools, government buildings, churches, markets and everything that has a communal use in the town. Thanks to our ancestors’ legacy, we do not need to start from scratch, but can keep building and growing more and more. That was the gift of our grandparents for us and the future generations to come. With the Tequio the people pay or give back for their’ ancestors efforts and this is also their way to contribute for the future generations. This is their way to give back.
Each year the council of elders meets and together decides what the community needs, what they can do for that specific year in order to continue growing as a community, to make life easier or just to increase the town’s beauty. Then the people organize and everybody contributes depending of their own gifts. If someone has experience or knowledge in construction, s/he offers their expertise and directs a group to accomplish the project. If someone is good following directions, s/he becomes a helper. An enthusiastic chef can offer the food for the workers. If someone has a truck s/he offers it and their driving skills. The rich can offer money to buy the material needed or to pay somebody to do the job. Once a year everybody contributes for one week, offering their gift for the prosperity of all. I will say, this is the Thanksgiving, Mexican style-people don’t have turkey dinner or family visiting, but they have food, music, company and a lot of meaningful work. Tequio is work with meaning.
Here at the monastery we also practice a lot of work with meaning: hospitality to all who come through our doors, justice and care for the earth woven into a shared way of life.
Denise and I have a class with Sister Lynne about our gifts. At the beginning it was a little difficult for me to think about my gifts. What are my gifts? What can I offer to this community? Scientific experience in a monastery is not the most useful. But then I remembered I have something that only I have and I can offer to this community. It is the gift of diversity. I speak another language; therefore I have a different, international worldview. I have different cultural lenses to see the world. Also, I come from a poor country, so I have the point of view of the disadvantaged. What could be a disadvantage is my gift. I offer you a window to see the world through my eyes. This is my Tequio for this community.
I also think this is a good Lenten exercise-to think about your gifts and to offer them to the welfare of your community. Not thinking about this offering like we are carrying a heavy cross that is not ours, but like Simon of Cyrene, we are offering rest and refreshment to the Jesus that is in front of us.
Read this post in Spanish. Para seguir a paz en español: Tequio, o devolver agradeciendo al estilo mexicano
Read more from Paz in her blog series, Little notes from a prairie journey.