Reflections after the floodingBy Scott Lee Chua
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Our school auditorium, usually reserved for graduation Mass and achievement exams, was transformed into a relief center last week.
As our teacher kept a running tally of donations, students—side by side with faculty, parents and staff—steadily sorted through crates of canned goods, noodles, biscuits, rice, water, clothes for packing into thousands of bags for flood victims in San Juan City and nearby areas.
Our school director, Fr. Johnny Go, SJ, suspended classes till the weekend so we could help in relief efforts. Project Call of Duty, organized by the Xavier High School Student Council, commenced as soon as roads became passable.
Hundreds of volunteers heeded the call made through text and e-mail. Under the direction of administrators and priests, classmates in sandals unloaded overflowing boxes; friends from a nearby girls’ school lifted weights as heavy as those we carried; teachers, alumni and parents drove vans to deliver relief goods to those in need.
Early last week as the rains fell relentlessly, I had mixed emotions: Sympathy for those who had lost much; sadness at our country’s latest misfortune; the urge to help the stranded and the suffering.
But, mostly, I felt helpless and angry. I cried out to God. Why do disasters come so frequently, and why do they hit the weakest, the poorest, the most defenseless?
I railed against our leaders. This was not the first time that typhoons, monsoons, floods had hit us. After every calamity, the government and the private sector swear that the next time will be different. For a while, some trash gets dredged, a dam or two gets fixed, a few potholes repaired.
But the effort is not sustained. Squatters live along rivers or seas because relocation centers are too far from their places of work. And they are tolerated because their votes are needed for the next election.
Garbage landfills are bursting, because recycling plants are too few to make much difference. Illegal loggers still ply their trade, while tree planting remains an afterthought.
While we were still doing relief operations, some friends said trash had started piling up on sidewalks and soda cans floated again in Manila Bay. I started shaking my head—but then I thought about the time we joined a contest at another school and some classmates and I left our snack boxes on the ground.
We justified it by saying we could not find any trash can. But I know we could have brought the boxes out. I was part of the problem, too.
But I can be part of the solution. All of us can. God is a loving Creator who will not destroy what He has made in His image and likeness.
As for nature, she is neutral and, whether or not weird weather is a sign of global warming, ever since the Big Bang, nature has been more powerful than us. While she has gifted us with rainbows, she has also scarred the earth many times.
If we cannot prevent typhoons, then at least we should not make things worse. We can change ourselves, our lifestyle. Perhaps then, nature will not be as disastrous.
St. Ignatius, our patron saint, told us “to give and not to count the cost.” He knew that acts of charity are complicated, and motives often mixed. Most of us do have an impulse to reach out when asked. But sometimes we give out of guilt, out of what conscience expects us to do. Other times we give because we expect something in return, even if it’s only peace of mind.
On the surface, intentions may not seem to matter. For the poor and the starving, the very fact that they receive what they need means people still care.
But for those who give—and in this imperfect world all of us, at one time or another, will be called upon to give—it does matter that we give from the heart. Christ loves the widow in the Bible not so much for the amount she donated, but rather because she gave from a free and open heart.
The question for us then is this: How can we go from donating to other ways of caring and serving others?
To love more, we need to know more about our fellow Pinoys, especially the vulnerable ones. As students, we are not (yet) expected to rescue citizens marooned on their roofs (though teenagers have given up their lives to save others from drowning).
Aside from keeping up with the latest movies or music, we can also update ourselves about the political and socioeconomic events that affect our society. Aside from donating to the Christmas drive, we can also interact with the recipients, and witness firsthand what they do and how they live. Aside from reading about fictional vampires and wizards, we can also study how and why real-life vampires prey on the suffering, and how we can grow up to be wizards who can combat injustice.
Instead of complaining about how difficult math or science is, let us study them well so that someday, we can build better transportation networks, find a cure for leptospirosis, or predict weather more accurately. Instead of rejoicing when classes are suspended, let us pray for those who have no more schools to go to, and use the time to help out.
In our relief center, all barriers disappeared. Teachers sweated beside students beside parents beside staff.
It was not hard to find God. He was everywhere I looked.
Scott Lee Chua is a Grade 9
student at Xavier High School. Aside from participating in Call of Duty, Xavier students were asked to reflect on the floods and their aftermath. Guide questions on God and faith in the face of disaster, and charitable acts done out of duty or love, were uploaded to www.xscallofduty.weebly.com. For the responses of students and teachers about helping out, visit Xavier School’s relief efforts website at www.xscallofduty.weebly.
com. This essay was in part taken from Scott’s reflections.