Everyone is born blind—that is, oblivious to the world that doesn’t concern us. We who were born with a silver spoon in our mouth choose to see the world to which we are accustomed. In my local church there is a youth group of which I have been a member for almost five years. In this group are people from all walks of life and social classes which I had considered beneath me. They seemed so different from me in many ways: Most of them could not converse fluently in English; many came from public schools that I considered “jeje” or generally not worth my time.
Up until last summer I treated them as a pet project—an experiment, if you will—but ever since the Life in the Spirit Seminar, I have wondered: Who was the pet project here, to begin with?
I’m not as religious as anyone would expect from a member of a church group. I still find it hard to believe that my God is looking out for me even if I am not the most pious believer. And then I found out that I was to be a facilitator, not only for my own Bible study group, but also for the coming Life in the Spirit Seminar! It was a total shock. How in the world could they have chosen me, of all people!
There must have been a mistake, I thought. But no, it was no lie, it was not some kind of joke. I was for all intents and purposes a leader in my group. I thought to myself: How in God’s name was I supposed to relate to these people? How was I going to even talk to them?
Then I had the Bible study group, and the first hour was a complete disaster. The venue that I had picked was closed; the rain was starting to pick up. But my girls found it hilarious. They told me that we would definitely have a good meeting because we were already having problems starting it. They were correct, and I found myself beginning to enjoy being a leader, or rather, a very childish older sister.
Generally, they were not much different from my friends in school. They all had problems with their love life and school, and were regular teenagers that I was supposed to bring together as friends and to experience the love of Jesus. Thus, I was pumped up and ready for the coming event: the Life in the Spirit Seminar.
So what did I expect from it? The last time I attended one, I felt I was stuck with teenagers who were not worth my time. I felt doomed. Now, I was expected to bring God to a bunch of young strangers who probably did not speak any English, and were from an entirely different walk of life.
Little did I know that these girls would teach me. Though very young, they have had to cope with adult situations. One girl was in the middle of a family feud, one was afraid of not being able to go to school, another had once tried to kill herself, and yet another was full of worry for her loved ones who were sick. Yes, they went to public schools. Yes, they looked like the type of people that I would readily ignore. But the fact was I found myself in each one. I found the “me” who was tired from the infighting, who was terrified for her schooling, who had once felt so alone. I found the “me” who had tried to hide from myself, who isn’t a superficial mask that was formed by my upbringing and shaped by what I thought would let me fit in at Zobel. I found the real “me.”
For the first time, I saw beyond my reality. I stepped out of my protective cage and took a peek—and it was amazing. The Life in the Spirit Seminar left its mark on me. I can no longer look at the people beyond my world and think, “Eww,” or laugh at how different they are. What I see now is another “me” walking in the street, riding the tricycle, begging for food, worrying about tomorrow.
Every day my bus route takes me past this little public elementary school, and I always watch a bunch of girls and boys making their way to class. I see this little girl at the same spot every day, and she reminds me of the child I once was, save for the fact that her spoon is wooden.
I end this piece knowing that in the morning I will see her again and she will ask me once more: Who is the pet project now?
Kimberly M. Francia, 17, is a marketing freshman at the University of the Philippines Visayas (Iloilo City).