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Fresh tomatoes among rotten ones

/ 05:02 AM October 14, 2021

One night in 2012, I was busy figuring out how to read a mechanical clock. My young self grappled with it as if it had the solution for the decreasing polar ice caps in Antarctica. While racking my brain, a familiar voice jolted me. My older sister was screaming in pain.

I quickly rushed to the window and saw the gory puddle of my sister’s blood. A motorcycle had scraped the middle of her shin and ankle, mangling her feet and breaking her lower fibula. My mother was in a panic while searching for a clean cloth to stop the bleeding. Luckily, our neighbor was a nurse who just got out of his hospital shift. He applied first aid and called an ambulance.

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The motorcycle driver, who was a minor and was drunk at that time, tried to run away with his blood-splattered vehicle. However, my furious father, along with his friends, was able to stop him. My father, whose eyes were brimming with murderous intent, tried to punch the boy, but my mother stopped him and calmed the beast peeking out of the cage. While the whole scene was unfolding before me, the ambulance took my sister to a hospital in Naga City.

This event triggered a domino of events that enlightened me about the notion of commitment.

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All commitments are promises, but not all promises are commitments.

After the accident, the family of the motorcycle driver who turned my sister’s leg into a mangled hotdog promised to pay my sister’s hospital bills, if we desisted from filing a case against their son. My parents agreed. But after several weeks, the settlement money was still nowhere, so they filed a case against the boy and the family.

This event showed me that not all promises are commitments. In my opinion, a commitment is the result of “promise” plus “determination,” because a promise without determination is senseless. If the promise comes without determination, then the outcome will be disappointment and pain.

After the accident, my sister needed surgery, so we went to the hospital’s billing department to find out how much would be needed for the procedure. I remember my father’s problematic sigh and my mother’s teary eyes; however, their eyes did not look exhausted. After several days, my parents were able to collect the required amount, even as huge debts mounted on our doorstep. My parents were unfazed, because all they wanted was for my sister to recover.

When the accident happened, I encountered many adults who were not as committed to help. One of our relatives, a lawyer, volunteered to represent my sister’s case. Our side was sure to win because the defendant was a minor and was drunk while driving. The odds were on our side, but our lawyer was not committed to win. The arguments he gave were half-baked, and he did not present any evidence to solidify our claims. There were many witnesses, but he did not summon anyone. In the end, we went home empty-handed.

After that eventful year, I remembered this quote: “If you place a fresh tomato in a basket full of rotten tomatoes, then it will rot within a few hours.” This meant to me that if I didn’t state my commitments now, then I would turn into an uncommitted individual who would negatively affect other people’s lives. Commitment, for me, became like a code that would keep me on the righteous path. As long as I did it voluntarily and I wasn’t harming myself, I would continue paving my own path and sailing my own course.

The result of all these experiences is that I decided to study hard and someday become an orthopedic surgeon. I will become a doctor who can treat patients like my older sister. I will not do it solely for money. I will do it so that people will not experience the difficulties our family went through. I do not want other parents to eat their pride and lose their face just to beg for money. In the distant future, I will perform pro bono surgeries on patients who are financially unstable. This is my commitment.

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Mea Nicola D. Alegre, 17, is a STEM senior high school student in Ateneo de Naga University. She is currently in 12th grade.

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