In past posts I have frequently expressed concerns regarding how our fast, frenetic and ever snowballing pace of life contributes to hyper activation of the body’s stress response.  This interferes with the body’s natural healing mechanisms and weakens our immune systems.

I often wonder why we are driven to heap on more activities and commitments.   How does a life dominated by stress and overwhelm actually serve us?  Does our culture give us an A+ for putting our health and well -being at risk?  And, if so, why do we care?

The following story is from a blog post by Daniel Bryan, Executive Director of the Pachaysana Institute in Ecuador – a multi faceted organization that works with local and international partners to create new models for community-based development.  (See  It illuminates the  need to address and respect the cultural differences that impact the process of change.

For my purposes,  the story’s refrain:  What For?  is a powerful question that we can use as we reflect on the choices we make in our own lives.  See what you think:

The Fisherman and the Gringo

(a term of endearment for an “American” in Ecuador)

A gringo tourist visiting a small beach town in Ecuador crosses by an Ecuadorian fisherman while walking on the beach.

Gringo: (In decent, but broken Spanish) Finishing a long day of fishing?

Fisherman: Not that long, like most days I fish for three hours and then come back home.

Gringo: And what else do you do during the work day, aside of the 3 hours?

Fisherman: What do you mean?

Gringo: Well, there are still at least 5 hours left.

Fisherman: I don’t get it.

Gringo: (Assuming that the conflict is a result of a language barrier) Just tell me what you do during a regular day.

Fisherman: Well, I wake up late and have breakfast with my family and then play with my kids for a while. Then I go out to fish and return 3 hours later. I take a nap with my wife, we have dinner, I spend time with my family and then I go out for a while with my friends. Finally, I come back home, watch some TV with my wife and we go to sleep.

The gringo is quite confused.

Gringo: But have you considered working more during your day?

Fisherman: What for?

Gringo: You could earn more money.

Fisherman: What for?

Gringo: You could get more things for your family. Almost everyone works 8 hours a day and if you were to just add on 3 more hours of fishing you could double your income.

Fisherman: What for?

Gringo: Or if you don’t want to fish more, you could maybe open a restaurant to maximize the profits of the fish you catch. That way, you and your family would have 2 businesses.

Fisherman: What for?

Gringo: (Really wanting to be of help.) Or if you don’t like the idea of the restaurant, I see lots of other potential in this town. What about putting a store right on the pier to sell products to the other fisherman?

Fisherman: What for?

Gringo: I just want to help you. There is so much more you can do.

Fisherman: What for?

The tourist starts to lose his patience

Gringo: To make more money! To have a better life! To prepare for your future!

Fisherman: What for?

Gringo: You must take advantage of all this extra time!!

Fisherman: What for?

Grngo: To be able to retire at a decent age!!!!

Fisherman: What for?

The tourist now loses all patience.

Gringo: Because that is the way life is!!!! That way, when you are 65, you can wake up late, always be able to eat with your family, have time to play with the grandchildren, take naps with your wife, and when you want, go out and spend time with friends.

Many of us are frantically racing through life……what for?

Remember – YOU hold the key!