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Stars in my palms

So here’s the thing. I was hit by the nostalgia bug after seeing photos of my closest college friends having a get-together because in the not too distant past, I enjoyed being with them in similar gatherings.

I don’t feel bad. Not at all. It’s just that I miss them. Not just them, but all the other friends I have who are scattered around the country and overseas. And yes, in essence, they are far from me.

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It sometimes hits me that I have this reality in me—a passion for adventure and a love for the uncomfortable and the unconventional. My heart takes my feet and my dreams carry me wherever; I don’t know where I’ll settle eventually. Some attribute my carefree ways to my being born under the sign of the horse in the Chinese zodiac. I don’t really know for sure about the zodiac thing, but I am indeed carefree. I am always led by the course of the wind here and there. Mostly because of a purpose, and I’d like to think it is a great purpose.

I lived 16 years in a small city in the Visayas. Then I spent four years in Luzon for college. And now, currently, I am in Mindanao doing volunteer work for agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs). I initially thought it would just be a one-year stint here, as indicated in our volunteer program, but somehow circumstances at work led me to extending my stay. Maybe for a little while, maybe for some time, maybe for good—I don’t know exactly.

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I have always been like a person’s fleeting memory from a childhood past. Sometimes the memory returns like a homing bird to someone’s senses, but most of the time, it’s flying and trying to spread its wings.

Funny how recently, a farmer-leader that I work with at my institution told me to hold up my palm. We were attending a market chain seminar for farm products. She was staring at something that seemed quite interesting in the web of my palm lines. She said there were stars formed in the intersections of my palm lines—meaning, according to her research and inquiries, that a lot of people will depend on me and actually need me.

Perhaps it’s so. I am working with a confederation of people’s organizations, and the primary group I am assigned to is perhaps the most popular of ARBs in the country. I work as a community organizer and an agro-enterprise facilitator for the farmers’ cooperative. I was assigned to the institution after I applied for a volunteer program. The institution needed a community organizer and an enterprise facilitator for the area, and I was matched with it.

Yes, indeed, perhaps I am needed in my work. It manifests in the fact that I was assigned to work here for just a year and yet, because of the “need” and the circumstances, I am very much encouraged to extend my stay. People I work with, farmers mostly, tell me how grateful they are that I am with them and assisting them in their concerns. Some even directly tell me to stay because the cooperative needs someone to continually aid its development. Oh, boy! Isn’t that flattering and pressuring at the same time?

Admittedly, I love it here and I love what I do. It may be very stressful and challenging at times but, yes, as a famous Filipino movie line goes, “I care about my job, sir.” I do care about my job, because there are stars in my palms and farmers are depending on me. These are not words of arrogance but an affirmation that I am needed, and in the need, I feel wanted and welcomed and even more challenged to deliver and to fulfill the development concerns of the cooperative.

With the feeling of being needed, I discover their potential as farmers and as a cooperative, and I, too, discover myself in more ways than I can ever imagine.

It is not a high-paying job. Well, let me correct that. As a volunteer, I don’t get paid at all; instead, I am given a monthly allowance that is just half of what I used to get when I was in college. Some of my college batch mates are working in famous corporations, some also in development work, and others, pursuing postgraduate studies. It is challenging here, yes, but even before entering the volunteer program, I knew what it entailed. Living miles away from home and budgeting a modest allowance—I must say, indeed, I am a fan of the uncomfortable. But I don’t feel bad at all. Instead, if this is any feeling at all, this is truly liberating!

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I don’t know how long I will stay here or if I will forever be an adventurer treading paths that others would not dare take. But I believe there are two things sure for me: first, that I have been changed forever by the choices I have made, leaving and building new friendships, leaving again and creating new relationships once more; and second, I will always miss the people I love, met and who have changed me in one way or another, because in being quite nomadic and adventurous and passionate to change the world, my physical absence has had its repercussions and consequences.

Perhaps I can’t take away from my system my habit of leaving and exploring new things. I don’t leave because it’s comfortable to do so; it usually isn’t. I leave because I dance to the rhythm of my heart and my purpose, and I go wherever God takes me. I know that my purpose is a real purpose in itself because God continually helps shape it.

I may miss the friends’ gatherings that I don’t get to attend, and I may miss even more the people who are in those events. But then again I realize that they will always be in my heart. And I’ll continue to go wherever this heart takes my feet, wherever the wind leads my purpose, and wherever God wants me to be. I take with me the people I love and care for as I dance away in loving service. After all, there are stars in the web of my palm lines; I am needed here, and I know the people I left will understand.

Leaving has its purposes and I have a purpose to animate. I left, yes. But I left to live—to live for something greater than myself and to be life-giving to others as well.

Jemika Kathryn F. Soledad, 21, is a political science graduate of Ateneo de Manila University. She now works in Sumilao, Bukidnon, for Pakisama NW-Mindanao.

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TAGS: featured column, human interest, opinion, volunteerism
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