*For a period of 2 weeks, I was in the Philippines with my IB year mates for a Lasallian formation/immersion program. During the program, I got to participate in a few activities to help poor kids, the elderly and street kids*
**P.S. this post is effectively also a book review of Wrecked: When A Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life by Jeff Goins**
I forgot what the boy’s name was. But, in the couple of hours we spent there, I was his kuya (bigger brother). I was his partner when we played games, danced, sang and ate together. He was a street kid (with problems such as substance abuse) that was being rehabilitated. He had a past. But, he was being given a new future. I prayed that he would be a changed soul and one day become a respected member of society once more. Then, I left.
Next, there were two girls. I tried my best to build a bond of some sort with them despite the language barrier (they did not speak or understand English). I tried to communicate with them using body language and hand gestures. I also tried my best to show them I cared—I helped them to color during the coloring activity and I brought them their food and memorized their names too. But when the time came, I left them with a hand-written card, memories and a full stomach from breakfast. When they would get their next meal was and is an unknown mystery to me. According to the leaders of the community, the kids usually had only a meal a day and most of them would go to bed hungry.
Lastly, there was a man from the old folk’s home we visited. He was a bass guitarist and did gigs with his band mates when he was younger. But, now he was in a home. Abandoned. But, he believes in having a positive outlook in life and true to his words, he smiled and cheerfully chatted with Marc and I when we visited the old folks’ home. When we left the old folks’ home, what anyone (from the group of IB students) wanted to do was just to spend more time with their “lolos and lolas (grandfathers and grandmothers) for a day”.
What I’m trying to convey from the above three stories is that in all three, I did my part—I did what the activity required of me. Yes, I put smiles on faces and I like to THINK that I helped make a difference in some people’s lives despite the short time I spent there.
BUT, here’s the sad truth most of us do not realize: WE CAN DO SO MUCH MORE! Each time when I left a place or person in the above stories, I left with a sense of dread. I think the rest of my IB mates felt the same way. And the reason behind this feeling is because deep down in our hearts, whether we acknowledge it or not, we know that we are capable of so much more. We, the blessed and the privileged, could do so much more than just planting seeds. We could water them and watch them grow. We could wait and see the fruits of our labor.
Many of us want to be able to say that we ACTUALLY made a difference. That we helped someone to get out of the vicious poverty cycle. We want to be able to say that we inspired a child or teenager to study hard to be able to support his family and improve their living conditions.
Jeff Goins in his book, Wrecked: When A Broken World Slams Into Your Comfortable Life, which I’ll be quoting from a lot in the quotes below, describes the feeling of being wrecked as follows:
“…to be wrecked is to be disabused of the status quo. It is being devastated by the possibility of a better world. It is sensing the disparity being what is and what should be” (paraphrased from Wrecked: When A Broken World Slams Into Your Comfortable Life)
But most of the time, we fail. We do not act on this feeling of being wrecked. We say that we did what we could—that we planted a seed. We settle for “good enough” even when we know that we can do so much more. And here’s why we settle: WE ARE AFRAID!
- We are afraid of pain
As Jeff Goins explains, compassion literally means “to suffer with” (the prefix com meaning ‘with’ and passion meaning ‘suffering’). So many of us have the wrong perception that doing good feels good. And maybe it does feel good a little.
But ultimately, doing good does not feel good. When you realize that you’re only providing a meal for a child off the street and you do not know whether he would die of hunger tomorrow, it hurts. When all you can do to ease someone’s loneliness is to spend a few hours with them and then leave, it hurts. When you try your hardest to be a good role model or bigger “brother” to a child and then leave without knowing whether he or she will grow up to be a respected member of society, it hurts.
However, it is from these situations that we learn the true meaning of being compassionate. Oftentimes, it is not real suffering that we face; it is the discomfort of stepping out of our comfort zones. But, when we are able to face this discomfort and learn the true meaning of being compassionate, it is when we will grow the most and be able to make a huge difference in society.
“this is the beginning of compassion. Not feeling better, but feeling worse. Because you can always do more…we must allow our hearts to be broken so we can make things whole again. We must fall apart before we can build up. Anything else is not compassion. It may raise money or impress the neighbors, but it won’t satisfy”
2. We are afraid of commitment
Teenagers and commitment seldom go hand in hand. We aren’t wired or taught to commit. To stay the course. To see something through. Instead, we are told to go for the new things—gadgets, clothes and shoes for example. And what happens to the not so “new” things? We discard or abandon them. A fine example is the games or the music in our phones. When a new game or song is released, we’re all hyped and excited about it, but most of the time when the hype and buzz dies down and you’re tired of playing the same game or listening to the same song, we discard them.
When we do good, most of us do it without commitment too. We do it for a couple of hours every once a year maybe? Then, we don’t do it again till the next year. And it’s not wrong. You’re still doing good. But, you could be doing more good!
You doing good and serving others should be a stepping stone to something bigger. It should be a means to an end and not an end in itself. Going on a mission trip overseas to see the poor and help others out is good but ultimately it should lead you to something bigger. A realization of the potential change you can bring back home. A changed worldview on how we view service to others. Ultimately, it should lead us to find our true selves.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others—Gandhi
Commitment is not easy. When you commit to something, you have to give up on other things. It’s like marriage. When you’re married to someone, it means that you give up on all the other potential life partners. There will be sacrifices that you will have to make when you commit.
Today, I would like to urge you to commit to doing good and serving others. Do not just do it when you feel like it. Make doing good and serving others your lifestyle. Make service to others your legacy.
Your greatest test is when you are able to bless someone else while going through your own storm—Regina Malabago
3. We are afraid of the truth
We’ve believed a lie. We’ve been told life is about us. That if we work hard enough, save enough money, and buy enough stuff, we will eventually be happy. Many of us have done just that, and we are anything but happy…we know something is missing; we just don’t know what it is—paraphrased from Wrecked: When A Broken World Slams Into Your Comfortable Life by Jeff Goins
The truth is we have all been searching for meaning in life in all the wrong places. We try the wrong things like drugs or alcohol, get into the wrong relationships or buy too much stuff just to try to fill the emptiness in our lives.
And here’s what I’ve learned from the trip in the Philippines: the three Lasallian core values which are Faith, Service and Community which I believe are great guidelines to living a life of meaning.
FAITH is essential to any human being; without faith, there is no hope and purpose for our lives. Faith and a belief in a higher power gives meaning to life.
SERVICE also helps to give meaning to life. It is when we realize that our gifts and talents can be used to serve others that we can truly make a change in the world.
COMMUNITY refers to the way we live with others. Do we trust and accept others despite their flaws and failures? Are we treating others the way we want to be treated?
It is when we come face to face with ourselves and accept the fact that we (me included) have been chasing after the wrong things in life, that we can truly make a change in our lives and society. So come, I urge you, young and old, come and be WRECKED! It is time we turned our lives around. It is time we learned the true meaning of compassion, it is time we learned to commit, and it is time we faced the truth.
We are all searching, waiting for a Moment to come along and wreck us. If we are lucky in this life, our worlds will get turned upside down, our expectations will be shattered, and our stories will shift away from us. If we are lucky. It can be a tragedy or a triumph, but whatever it is, it must attack the way we view the world—Jeff Goins
God bless you and thank you for reading.