The Spirit Of Volunteerism

8 Oct

admu relief ops 09 copyIn the last two weeks, two deadly typhoons, Ondoy (International Name TS Ketsana) and Pepeng (TS Parma) wreaked havoc on the country, devastating much of Luzon. They ruined crops, destroyed homes and property, and tore apart families. Much has been said about who to blame and what could have been done to prevent these tragedies. In the middle of discord and bickering, of politicking and campaigning, it is heartening to see the spirit of volunteerism rising forth in a swell of help and support for those who have lost almost everything in those few days.

We take away many lessons from these tragedies. admu relief ops 03 copyLessons on proper governance and the call for a strong political will to buck big businesses and vested interests. Lessons on the environment and the urgent need to protect and preserve what little is left of our rainforests. Lessons on pollution and the need for implementing a rational waste management system. Yet, what I will remember most are lessons on humanity– on heroism, volunteerism, and love.

admu relief ops 05 copyIn times of crises, it is love alone that brings people together, that makes them risk their lives for people they do not know, and that makes them want to share and give from their hearts.

Thank you to all those who helped, who shared, and who prayed for our countrymen. May the blessings you shared be returned a thousandfold.

In parting, I’d like to share Father Raymund-Benedict Hizon’s homily  at the October Medal Mass last October 6 held at the Ateneo High School.  Father RB is the principal of the Ateneo High School.  

“Good morning, everyone.  This has been a very, very strange year so far.  Early today, I met one of our teachers who said, “Father, this our third start. What do we do?” Just the other day, I met one of our students, who said, “Father, so much for our Sesqui year. What will happen?” Just before the long cancellation of classes, one of our students posted something on my wall in FB (Facebook) saying, “Is the world ending? Father, are we being punished? What did we do wrong? Where did we go wrong?”
“I have to admit that when the rains first came, I could only ask myself those questions… questions with no ready or even real answers, questions which emerged as I saw first hand the rising waters and terrible traffic, and later the horrible images on FB and YouTube. Somehow, I felt and saw myself falling into a certain level of despair, a kind of disbelief and helplessness that made me turn in on myself and the rather narrow confines of my world and my immediate circle wanting if only to preserve that little part of me and my world over which I had some control, where I was safe and warm and dry and where I was not so utterly helpless.

“When the rains came heavily on Saturday, I was on my way to a funeral mass in C5 for an uncle who died.  I left the JR (Jesuit Residence) at nine in the morning and was only able to get back by five that afternoon.  Everything was a mess: people and cars lined all the streets; water was everywhere.  No one really knew what was happening.  People were stranded everywhere.  There were hundreds at the grade school, a couple more at the college and good number too here at the high School.  Utterly exhausted from the day-long journey (I never made it to the funeral mass, water was already chest deep in some parts of c5 and so I had to drive back inch by inch through waist-deep waters and unbelievable traffic and finally got back 8 hours later), nursing a fever, I lay down  for a while—and questions started running through my head; strange questions, a number were urgent; some were practical others stupid even embarrassing: what will I do tomorrow? Will there be classes and work on Monday? What’s for dinner? What will happen to the concert of 4M? what happened to the Ateneo Grade School fair?  What will happen to our sesqui?  How will we make up for lost class time if this goes on…what’s happening? Are we being punished? Is the world ending? Are my parents okay? When will we have the juniors game? Will our swimming team stay on in Laguna? Will I get the chance to see them tomorrow? What about KFD? What about my dog?

“Fortunately the phone rang and broke through my rambling revelry. It was one of our teachers: “Father there are about 50- 60 of us stuck at the AHS; teachers, students, some parents, some guests, and a nun.” We have no electricity here, no water and no food.”
“That immediate concern somehow broke through the crazy cacophony of voices and questions that were running though my head and going through my heart.  Very much like Mary’s greeting, that caused John to leap in the womb of Elizabeth, that immediate concern came as something like God’s own voice saying simply, “Snap out of it. It’s not about you!”
“It’s not about you…what happened next was a whirlwind of activity which saw us shuttling, preparing meals, finding shelter, helping organize task force Ondoy, asking students and parents to send relief and help pack, check on their classes and help bring relief, checking on teachers and staff.
“It’s not about you.”
“While we may not always have been successful or thorough enough or helpful enough; while we have much yet to do and our efforts have yet to reach more people, the next time we are plagued with questions, or doubt, the next time we feel like complaining, the next time we feel helpless or hapless, it may be good be reminded of that “it’s not about you.”
“For most of today, and in the coming days, we hope to be able to hear each others stories and attend to each others needs. Our moderators and teachers will try to see what else we can do to help everyone go back to some sense of normalcy.
“The need is still greater outside the immediate concerns of each one here; the needs are more basic outside the  Ateneo, the problems are more long-term than our Sesqui year and yet we have to be able to do what we can not only for each other but more especially, for the poor.

“Mother Teresa, I am told, once asked to address the American Senate as she and her sisters were looking for assistance to feed and clothe the big numbers of homeless in Washington, D.C.  One high government official (who was not particularly impressed by her nor convinced that what she was doing was particularly good or helpful)  wanted to embarrass Mother Theresa and asked her: “So sister, would you mind please telling us how it is you intend to feed the thousands who are hungry and homeless in DC? 

“Mother Theresa looked at him and said simply, “One by one.”

“One by one. That is perhaps the best way we can respond right now…one by one…one student, one staff, one teacher, one neighbor…one community…one by one.

“I pray we begin and start well, even for a third time. God bless you.”


2 Responses to “The Spirit Of Volunteerism”

  1. NinJas! October 8, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    Thanks for sharing Fr. RB’s homily 😀

    It really is beautiful. 🙂 This may sound morbid but when I die, I want Fr. RB to officiate at my funeral mass. 🙂 Remember this, ha? ~♥Kittymama

  2. julie October 9, 2009 at 6:43 am #

    Father RB, thanks for the wonderful message of Mother Teresa: “One by one.”

    Am moved to tears 😥

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