WE LOVE LUCCA
Many, many years ago I lived in Malawi, Africa. I had gone, as part of then President Kennedy’s Peace Corps program. I was stationed in a tiny village in the middle of a hot, arid area, hours away from any city or form of ‘what I then considered civilization’. Outside of my job, which was to assist a small African-owed business, there was little to do in this village of 1000 people, eight small ma and pa type stores, a Catholic church and one bar, which was open three months out of the year during the growing season. So, we visited. We spent hours visiting and, before long, my eyes were opened to a whole new way of life.
When I had lived in the United States I had a taste for fraternities, politics, designer labels, parties, any thing suggesting ‘the good life’. But, at a deep level, one I could not understand at the time, I felt something wasn’t quite right and I was drawn to Africa. So, I went to what was then called ‘the dark continent.’ I was a rather optimistic, yet naive young man, and I had a desire to change myself and the world.
When I arrived in the village of Tembwe I was taken aback by the pure job exhibited by the Malawians, people who survived on so very little and who had almost no opportunity to enrich their lives. How could such people be so joyful, I wondered. In time, I learned that how much money one has, who one knows, or how much stuff one amassses has little to do with happiness and, while I had gone to Africa ready to change the world, I returned, after almost five years, to the United States, having found that the world had changed me. And, I would never be the same.
It may seem strange to say that Lucca, Italy reminds me of my young Tembwe life, but I do find that is true. For, despite the fact that the Lucchesi have always been a rather wealthy people, they posses the same trait of the villagers that I found in Malawi: a sense of joy and a way of looking at everyday life that inspires me, makes me, I think, a better and clearly happier, person.
Donald and I returned to Lucca in early September of this year. Upon seeing us, Alberta, our jolly fruit and vegetable lady smiled broadly, laughed loudly, opened her arms wide, and gave each of us a huge hug. The joy she let forth and the joy we experienced was typical of the way the Lucchesi welcomed us back to Lucca and, other than the reception we receive at home by our three young grandchildren, it is a welcome unlike anything either of us has ever experienced in our home country, despite a whole host of loving and wonderful family and friends. The Italians, much like the Africani, simply express themselves in a way that most of us find unimaginable, yet so delicious as to be rather addictive.
It is no wonder that WE LOVE LUCCA.
I hope you come to experience the same unbridled joy,