No one is too poor to give
I’ll never forget the time when I was in high school, when a devastating typhoon struck some parts of the Philippines.
My school was collecting donations for the victims. All
the students were encouraged to give donations of food, water and clothing.
My classmates were rich kids, so they were bringing in huge sacks of rice, boxes of clothing and crates of bottled water.
On the other hand, all I could bring was a canister of bigas.
One girl sneered at me and said, “’Yan lang ibibigay mo?”
I felt insulted and complained to my mother at home. She calmly explained, “These other kids have money to spend to give big donations; these came from the excess of what they have. We gave from our own supply of rice, which is a big sacrifice for us.”
That explanation of my Ma stuck with me for the rest of my life. It reminded me of that story in the Bible when rich people were donating huge amounts to the temple treasury, and a poor widow gave only two copper coins. Observing this, Jesus remarked that the poor woman had put in everything she had to live on.
These past few years, I’ve been teaching in a school where most of our students live in poverty. I’ve always been impressed how, despite how poor they are, they’re usually the most generous and concerned for others.
Last Teachers’ Day, I received a beautiful, handwoven pencil case from a former student I had grown close to. She’s a lovely girl who lives in the slum area, who would wake up at 3 a.m. to cook food with her mother.
They sell it at the sidewalk to the construction workers passing by. She’d walk to school to save money, but when I call for donations for an outreach project I’m organizing, she’d always donate an amount. I look at the P20 bills in my hand and reflect on how much sacrifice it must have taken to give this money.
I will always treasure that pencil case she gave me as a gift, especially because she had woven and sewn it herself.
In my advisory class, there was one girl who didn’t have a cell phone, so I decided to lend her my old one which was still in good condition. She was so moved by the gesture.
Upon returning it, she gave me a big paper bag of different kinds of puto or rice cakes. I didn’t think much of it, and I thought she must have just bought it as a thank-you gift, but it turned out it was her mother who had cooked it. She cooks and sells kakanin for a living.
In our last parent-teacher meeting, the mother gave me a warm smile, thanked me for lending my phone to her daughter, and asked if I had liked the puto. It’s touching how the simple
action of lending my old phone was so appreciated by the
mother and daughter.
There’s this other time when I was cleaning up the classrooms after my students’ plays. I had brought in a step ladder to remove the decorations from the ceiling. A boy from the technical-vocational section saw me and offered to climb the ladder and remove all the decorations himself.
He didn’t even know me; he was not my student. There’s a generalization that the technical-vocational students are the poorest and the most academically weak. I felt guilty believing this, watching this boy uncomplainingly climb the ladder and clean up several classrooms. (Would the students in the rich kids’ school have had the same initiative? I doubt it.)
Witnessing these simple acts of generosity and kindness always makes me reflect. They inspire me to give myself more to my teaching job. As St. John Paul II said, “Nobody is so poor he has nothing to give, and nobody is so rich he has nothing to receive.”
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Lex Adizon, 26, is a teacher based in Bacolod City.
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