CBS Sunday Morning recently had a segment on retirees moving to Ashville, North Carolina. Essentially the retirees had been professionals and found themselves involved in activities that were intellectually stimulating in this North Carolina community. In Ashville they found like-minded people. Furthermore, the community has a “university” of sorts in which the retired teach courses to the other retirees. Everything from languages to grant writing to physics was being offered.
I couldn’t help but think of San Miguel as I was watching the retirees in Ashville. The places are worlds apart. One is in progressive America, in the South, in green, lush mountains. The other is situated in the desert of dirt-poor Mexico. But the similarities are striking.
The expats in San Miguel de Allende (many of whom are not of retirement age, but left the U.S. 10 or 15 years prior to “retirement”) are intellectually involved in learning or in giving service, just as those in Ashville. The are alive and vibrant. Many are studying Spanish or history or poetry or bridge. It is pretty impressive to me to see 80 year old students studying Spanish.
The other impression that always impresses me in San Miguel is how many expats spend inordinate amounts of time helping improve the lives of the Mexicans. When I asked about this and whether these “do gooders” had always been involved in helping, the answer was a resounding “no.” However, in Mexico they felt more generous and felt moved to help. And they told me that they were helping because they knew that their help was going directly to another person. There was nothing in between them and the recipient.
One charitable group builds houses for the homeless. The cost is $6000 US and the donations for the construction come from expats. The group does all the building themselves. Another group dedicates itself to promoting college education to women. It chooses young women in high school, aiding them financially and emotionally. Anther group supports day care centers for the children of single mothers. There are a total of over 35 charitable groups run by enthusiastic expats with years of experience and wisdom.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, like Ashville, North Carolina, is brimming over with thoughtful, vital expats who haven’t opted out of life.