How to live life happily? Most often, I’d get suggestions like: make a contribution by working hard in a work you love; be in the know and intelligent; gather a surplus; love your family above your friends, your cellphone, your dog, your career; and progress in the firm and gain high title and salary, stock options, benefits. Everyone I know agrees: this is life’s joy.
However, happiness is not at all about being paid, or living in luxury, or getting wealthy, or having a blue-collar job and finding a partner. I am more convinced that happiness goes beyond any human reason.
Convincing took place in a more unanticipated way. Years ago, I met Carmen, a German national who came to Cebu to complete a study on the city’s garbage condition. Visiting garbage dumpsites almost everyday on her three-month stay, the research goal was just as noble as her. She is a dainty lady whom I thought had already been endowed with a life so uncomplicated and painless in her home country in Europe, yet in Cebu, chose to work in a place we locals detest to be in.
Carmen wanted to give a little part of her. Residents in the dumpsite loved her gradually. As she developed in herself a love for the children scavengers, the desire to help grew more. She spent significant time nourishing them, taking them to leisure parks whenever she had the chance. Even during holidays, she was with the children.
After 3 months, Carmen went back to Germany. She promised to be back and become a full-time volunteer.
Nico was another German national I had met, whose big heart went for the needy. He was extending a helping hand to the child prostitutes in Cebu who were rescued from the dangerous, exploitive bars in the city. Housed in a private Center – its maintenance rested mainly on donations from kind hearts – Nico attempted every effort to keep the children away from the job they were forced to do.
With positive insights, Nico constantly lifted the broken spirits of these children through openness and realization that there is more to life than just the short-time shifts they got from the streets. With him and a couple of caretakers, they were able to generate additional meager source of revenue by selling homemade pastries. This, they have to do to at least send the children to school. At the moment, their finances could only provide for the schooling of three children.
I had visited the Center myself and saw society naked in truth. I had the chance as well to meet Tanya, one of the founders of the Center. When she started it with another German volunteer, she encountered so many impossibilities, like sustenance! She said she had to gather donations (in thousands Euro) for the yearly provisions. Further, she told me that she would never stop supporting the Center.
True, the Center needs aid in every way to go on with this praiseworthy goal.
A gift to see people. That is what Carmen, Nico and Tanya have. They are generous givers living with an eternal perspective and experiencing completely every joy there is in giving. For them it does not feel like a burden but a pleasure. Unconcerned with how much they own, they favor giving over getting. The driving motivation: not self-concern but love for others!
I was touched by their persistence and desire.
In this moment in time when I often see on TV hungry people – children hunting food in garbage stacks, teens making money selling their reputation – it is not true, what others declare, that as an individual, we cannot help them. There are a number of ways a would-be giver can do. Most of the time, it only takes the first step to start the ball rolling.
In finality, giving is not merely a ritual or a habit we should do out of pity but an act made up of sincere love. Albeit it is hard to change current motivation overnight, hence we hope and pray for courage to unlearn it and keep a new, inspiring one in place. Then we would add it to our list of life’s joys.
If Carmen, Nico, Tanya and the rest of the kind-hearted volunteers from Germany, Austria and France enjoyed it, there is no reason for us not to see the joy in sharing and to develop the grace to perform a worthy purpose.