There is a time in one’s life when one turns the bend, and it begins to feel like one is reaching the homestretch in life’s marathon journey. Turning 75 seems to be one of those times, and for this reason I would like to share a few thoughts, based on my experience that one “can’t lose them all” and can turn things around even in the proverbial “last two minutes” or “extra time” of one’s life.
All of life is a gift. What truly amazes me is how our lives are filled with both joys and sorrows and we survive more or less intact thanks to the Almighty’s loving kindness. I have experienced the loss of an eldest son, the death of a student who passed away in my arms, or the senseless shooting by men in uniform of fellow protesters in the streets. I have also seen the brutality of war in places such as Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka, Burundi and Rwanda, and Colombia. I have experienced the tragedy of “broken-ness,” of frayed relationships, and the inability to attain distant dreams; yet we are given people who have embraced us, touched our lives and nurtured us. Gratitude is something we cannot take for granted; and I truly thank my wife Bong who has accepted me all these years for who I am, “warts and all,” and my children and grandchildren who are immense sources of joy. I am fortunate, moreover, to have been blessed with former classmates, batch mates, friends from the past and present, and colleagues at work who have been both loyal and supportive.
All of life is a prayer. When I was a student there was one prayer that struck me and has remained with me all throughout my journey: “Lord, teach me to be generous; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I am doing Your will.” What these lines have taught me is that all of life is a prayer, an endeavor, and an enterprise “to be more” and do more in the areas of our lives that truly matter.
All of life is a learning journey. As a student and a teacher, I learned a lot here in our country, and in Latin America where I studied the social sciences, as well as in Uppsala and Oslo where I did peace studies. The irony, in fact, when I come to think of it, is that my students have taught me much more in life than I could ever have imagined.
As an advocate in the struggle against the dictatorship, in the quest to protect human rights and in the work for a just peace in the Philippines and abroad, I learned the meaning of the accompaniment of people and processes in the organizations I joined, such as the militant nonviolent Lakasdiwa of the First Quarter Storm of the 1970s, or Ka Pepe Diokno’s Kaakbay in the 1980s, or the international secretariat of Amnesty International and the peace-building organization International Alert, where I witnessed peace agreements signed and broken time and again in different parts of the world.
As a formator of scholar-athletes in postretirement, I am blessed to work with young people playing together and working hard to produce a “brave brand of sportsmanship” that is both mindful and committed to do one’s best till the sound of the last buzzer.
All of life is a challenge to be the best we can be. Life never truly ends; it is merely transformed. Yet, when we reach the three-quarters mark I am reminded of three things—some kind of ultimate challenge:
Staying the course. As we reach the homestretch, it is important, it seems to me, to stay true to one’s principles, to remain firm in our convictions, and not to be swayed by prevailing winds or be broken by the trials that beset us. It takes courage to stay the course, even when dawn seems far too distant.
Sharing with the successor generation. I began as a teacher, and am fortunate that in postretirement I am able to accompany young scholar-athletes in their formation not only to share what I have learned but also, and more importantly to assist them to reach their level best, to unleash their potential, and to realize that there is life beyond basketball, volleyball, football, or any other sport; that character is what truly matters; and that competence and the formation of social conscience mean more than trophies or medals.
“Sage-ing” with courage. I believe that at this stage of one’s journey, joy comes when we accept things as they are, but continue to work to make things as better as they can be. When one reaches the seventies, our frailties and ill health normally begin to surface. Our shortcoming and limitations in life become more pronounced. Thus, aging with grace, with humility and magnanimity becomes a blessing, and “sage-ing” with equal measures of gratitude and courage becomes a gift in the endgame.
Ed Garcia, a framer of the 1987 Constitution, taught at Ateneo and UP, worked at Amnesty International and International Alert in London, and now serves as consultant on the formation of scholar-athletes at FEU Diliman.
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