Jessi Winters is a Community Economic Development (CED) volunteer serving in a pueblo in Atlántico, Colombia.
About a year ago I was sitting in a meeting trying to pitch an entrepreneurship class for a group of artisans when this older woman glided into the room apologizing for being late. This would not have been abnormal except that she did it in French.
When the class finally started, I got to know her and realized that she was different from most women in my community. She is spiritual, intuitive and – dare I say – ‘woke.’ She cries for the state of our planet while still being able to dance and sing to lighten everyone’s mood. People act like she’s a crazy old woman, but she doesn’t let it bother her. She takes it in stride and just says “I’m crazy, but I’m sane crazy.”
In the past 9 months, she has become one of my best friends at site. Not only does she feed me (she cooks the best vegetarian food in my town), but somehow, every time I’m feeling down she can sense it and says the right thing. When I was feeling incredibly anxious and like I my work was failing, she lovingly reminded me that I don’t have to do anything that doesn’t make me happy. When I was feeling overwhelmed she simply hugged me and told me that everything would be okay. She can sense when someone is distressed without them having to say a word and say the exact thing they need to hear. As a friend, she has nourished my body and my soul.
When we first met, she would call me “querida profe” (dear teacher), but now she calls me “mi Jessi.” She has accepted me as a friend when a lot of people I meet find me strange or different. One day Christina explained to me, “my people aren’t just the people around me. My people are everyone, even the women I don’t know and the people that pass by on the motorcycles.” She truly lives her life by this mantra. She treats everyone she meets with respect and love.
When I decided to write this article, I asked her what one thing she wished people knew about Colombia and she said that they should go into the country, and meet the beautiful people that live there, but, if I were to weigh in, I’d say you should just meet her.