I remember beautiful sandy beaches, tasty pollo guisado (braised chicken), tropical warmth, and hospitality that made me feel at home even though it was my first time in the Dominican Republic. I was there in 2018 to witness the work of Esperanza International, seeing firsthand the power of microfinance. The trip was rich in sights, smells, and tastes, but perhaps my most enduring memory is of a man who exemplified hard work and kindness.
His name was Aristides Rudecindo, and he was the driver that often supported Esperanza International. He appeared to be about my age and was a man with few words, soft-spoken, and unassuming. What I recall is his warm personality, bright smile, and heart of service that transcended language barriers and bridged the cultural divide. During each pick-up and drop-off, he insisted on helping with bags. Whether welcoming guests or setting up chairs, he did it with care and kindness. In his own gentle manner, he exuded confidence, courage, and calm.
I was later informed that the trip I took was Aristides’ last time serving a group before passing away early in 2019 from pancreatic cancer. Though my heart sank at the news, my spirit was lifted at my colleagues’ remembrances of him: “What a wonderful driver he was. We have yet to find anyone like him.” “He was an awesome guy. He was super responsible and really kind and respectful. I always knew I could count on him!”
This season of sudden disruption and worrisome uncertainty — when illness and premature death are a constant in the news — has me thinking about the notion of legacy. And Aristides’ legacy is one that I cherish. He worked hard and was kind to all. I doubt he spent his time fretting about titles, ego, or recognition. He simply offered his best. It was beautiful to witness and an honor to interact with him. Many of us dedicate much of our time and energy pursuing a career, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But do we dedicate equal effort to cultivating our character? There’s what we do…and then there’s how we do it; one is a greater reflection of our character. You don’t have to know it all. You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to fix it all or be all to all. Work hard and spread some kindness; you might just make your little corner of the world slightly brighter.
Bendición, mi amigo, Aristides.
P.S. The graphic below includes a few ideas on how to care well and spread kindness. These ideas were curated from the team at LINKBANK.