A Smile From A Thousand Miles Away

I know the title sounds like a cheesy little romantic story, but don’t worry, it’s not even close. 

——–

This past summer, I spent two and a half months back in Manila just relaxing, going to the beach, seeing family and friends and all that fun stuff. 

So from my house, there’s a road I need to pass in order to get to any place, whether it’s the city, mall, friend’s house etc. Now along this road, more often than not, there are street vendors selling rags (that are used to wipe your car) for about 20 pesos/bundle. When I say street vendors, I mean little children that look around 8-14 years old dressed in dirty clothes with holes, and sometimes walking around barefoot.

In Alabang, where I grew up, there is such an evident division of wealth. On one side of it, there are mansions, exclusive country clubs, fancy cars, and high-end stores; on the other hand (and not too far away), there are slum areas, beggars, and street vendors.

The sad part is, this is nothing new to me. I grew up seeing this everyday, but in passing. I’ve always hated this, and I’ve tried to do my part to help. As a family we donate goods, whether it’s school supplies or medicines, to orphanages, public schools, or NGOs. In 2012, I spent a part of my summer volunteering in a school for street children called Tuloy sa Don Bosco. Let me tell you, it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences to date.

One thing that has continued to surprise me throughout the years is how cheerful these kids are despite their “less-than-normal” conditions. While I was volunteering at Tuloy, the kids (mostly 1st grade students) would tell me about me about the games they play in the rain and the soccer games they’ve won, all with the biggest smiles. I never heard a single complaint from any of them.

Had I been in their position, there are so many things I could think of complaining about. I could complain about not getting toys for Christmas, or only having one meal a day, or how my education is not a priority, but most of all, how unfair the world is. I can only imagine how frustrating it is to watch other people trot around with their riches. It’s unfair how the state of your (early) life is determined by the family you are born into. It’s unfair how you don’t get the same opportunities other people. It’s unfair that no matter how hard you work, you still struggle getting yourself out of poverty; you still won’t have as much as other children that were lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family (and have never worked a day in their life). Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming anyone for being born into richer families. Heck, I’ve been so blessed with so many things since the day I was born.

So back to my story…

One time I was stuck in traffic along this road, and noticed a little boy selling rags. I’d seen him several times before, rain or shine. Seeing that I had 20 pesos ($0.50) to spare in my wallet, I called him over and gave it to him. I asked him if he has eaten lunch since it was 1pm already, to which he replied that he had not. I told him I didn’t want the rags he was selling, so that he could sell it to others instead. He insisted, but in the end I won. I talked to him for all of two minutes until the cars behind me started honking. I said goodbye and drove away. 

For the next month that I was there, I would see him 75% of the time I was on that road. I didn’t keep giving him money but I would say hi if he came close to my car. Other times, he would see my car (I drive the same one every time), run up to me and say hi. 

He was a five-second part of my day that always brought a smile to my face. Since I’ve been back to Vancouver, I haven’t really thought about him. I’ve gotten back to the groove of my life here, and been swamped with work since being back in university. 

Tonight, my mom (who is in Manila) sent me this:

image

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Side note:

  • I always drive the bmw, so that’s the car he recognizes
  • “siguro nagulat siya na pag-wave niya e senior citizen na yung nagda-drive!" In translation: He’s probably surprised that whenever he waves to the car, he sees a senior citizen driving it now! (Hi Mom, I know you’re reading this…you’re not a senior citizen yet!)

I can’t even explain how happy I was when I read this.

I can’t wait to go back and see him again, and this time, do something more meaningful than smile and wave at him from the confines of my car. 

I guess all I’m saying from this post is that if you have even a little bit to spare, give it to someone who needs/deserves it. Whether it’s money, a service, or time, I’m sure it would mean a lot to people who have very little.

If you feel like you have nothing to offer, you’re wrong. You can always offer a smile and some warm words. It’s so easy to be ignorant, and enjoy the comforts of your life. I mean, life goes on whether or not you pay any attention to them, right? That’s why I’m saying – step out of your little bubble, be aware of what’s going on around you, and do something. You’d be surprised at how much you gain from doing it.

This was way longer than I expected, but honestly there’s still so much to say. I’ll leave it at this for now.

Now I’m excited for December! Lots of ideas and plans going on in my head right now. But in the meantime, back to my reality of studying for midterms. 

Lots of love x

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