Last May, we lost Tatay, my Dad’s father. He lived in California with Nanay and my Dad’s sisters. They have lived there for years, and everybody too in our family, both my Mom and Dad’s side. My Mom drove me to the airport because I needed to go with my Dad for Tatay’s wake and funeral (and because it will be Dad’s first time there, his first time to see two of his sisters after 29 years, and my first time to be there with Dad).
During our trip, I was uncomfortable. Even before the sudden trip, I was uncomfortable. When our car stopped at the intersection, I thought, how could I go to the US while other people walked around cars, risking lives, to sell water, newspapers, and candies? Mom said it isn’t like I was going there on vacation or to be merry. It wasn’t a time for joy nor feasting. I know that it was my dream to go there, only because I want for my Mom and Dad and I to be with our family. God knows how much my heart yearned for our family to be together, because the distance can hurt at times and hides pain that we cannot talk about without crying salt.
And during times when I hear about wars in other countries, persecution, crimes, on TV or on social media, I ask the Lord again, how are some of us… okay? Alright? Comfortable? Secure? Safe – when other people wake up in the morning, frightfully thankful for another day, because a bomb didn’t explode near their place during the night?
Was there a surplus of grace in one area, while the other demanded for it, but there was no supply available? How could others walk in style, while others walked in minefields? At selfish and petty moments, how could I just think about myself and my worries and problems, when there’s so much more that’s going on than my life?
Going around provinces, going to other countries, reading articles on what’s happening in the world, you get a picture of how big it all is, and how small we all are. Big, because outside of our country, there are more cultures, more people, more stories, more languages. But small too because we are not alone. Our lives aren’t the only ones that matter. Every life does. The ten-year-old’s. The fifty-year-old’s. The Italian’s. The African’s. The Filipino’s. The Japanese’s. The German’s. The Chinese’s. The American’s. The Indonesian’s. Every life on this earth, wherever he hails from.
As I ask these questions about the seeming outpour of grace and deficit of it, I ask too, “Am I being ungrateful? Am I not thankful that I and my family and friends do not get to experience this kind of waking into trouble day by day?” It seems as though that is the tone, but no. I am thankful, I am thankful, I am eternal thankful, but this does not mean that my thought for others is terminal, is seasonal. Just because I am thankful for my situation does not invalidate the other person’s plight. Just because I wonder about this does not mean I am inviting God to give me that kind of tribulation either.
I don’t know. I just wrote this after seeing my friend Ate Dawn’s post on the wars in Syria, how many are currently displaced, and the children who drowned. There have been other posts too that I saw shared in Facebook. These are stories which are so hard to hear, to accept that is happening. In every sense of the phrase, it breaks a heart to see this. To migrate to a foreign country because of wars at home. To see an innocent life washed ashore… If I were the child’s mother and to see my child’s lifeless, cold body in his favorite clothes… There are no words…
I want the wars to stop as much as everybody does. I want corruption, greed, theft, discrimination, abuse, to end. I want us to let ourselves be vulnerable, to see our our own sinfulness, to admit we need God. I want to see each person’s dignity and integrity and life given respect. I want to see nation apologize to nation, betrayer to embrace the betrayed, the thief to give back again and the one stolen to forgive. Is this the ideal? No, this is a prayer and a new kind of faith that sprouts from tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. This new kind of faith that believes in the kindness and redemption of other people. That we have the power to stop the cycle of hurt. To put an end to it with love and forgiveness. And it starts with ourselves, and then the wave continues. I am scared of writing about these things; it makes me very uncomfortable but not talking about them makes me more uncomfortable. I admire those who brave and conquer their fears and doubts in their own little ways just to shed more light in issues we need to know about more.
Maybe this isn’t so much a question about the abundance of grace in one place or person and the lack of it in others. He is a God who is not fair. He gives chances to everybody. He gives grace to the workers who worked for only an hour, the same amount of grace for those who worked from morning to evening. There is grace in you, in him, in her, in everybody. When we humbly receive it, then we become the grace – the blessing, a living message of hope – we are talking about to someone who needs it. And it is because of Jesus who transforms us, who gave all of us chances to live again.
We cannot save the world, but we can save one person. Saving doesn’t mean you go gallantly on a horse and don armor and sword. In the words of Gandalf in The Hobbit, “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in … small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.” Saving or good acts aren’t exclusive to only going out to the dangerous places, bringing refuge, handing out food, protecting one’s countrymen… These are noble acts and beautiful to witness, but these aren’t the only options. Because what about us, the ones who are silent and staying in one place? We be a helper wherever we are in our own way. Through our attitude and the gifts that the Lord has given us, we will give hope to someone.
Saving can mean listening to your neighbors, loving them, forgiving them, being patient with them, being with them when they need you.
I love how the other commandment says that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Not just the ones living next to us physically but basically everyone close to us, everyone that only we can reach: our families, our friends, officemates, people we pass by in the streets, in buildings, in malls, in blogs.
To love them. To be love to them. We must create safe environments for children to grow in peace and love, a culture of collaboration rather than competition, a belief and trust in the goodness of others, a government that is transparent and centered on serving rather than to be served, a resolution for us to humbly accept our mistakes and shortcomings and thrive to be a better person, and a faith that is utterly dependent on God.
There are problems in this world that we cannot solve, that we have no answers to – only cries or confusion. But I continue to believe and to trust that there is goodness. There is so much more light and hope, if only we could awaken it from deep within us, thus inspiring others too to give out their own light.
The more dark we see around us, then that’s the time we need to magnify hope more, to believe longer, to love braver, to depend on His saving grace stronger.