Blessed to Give

Last Monday was Ella's birthday. I have prepared birthday celebrations for my kids with more budget than we had that day. But by far, this was the best...

I have read about celebrities and rich people celebrating their birthdays with the less fortunate, giving a portion of what they have, and their act of giving is oh-so-inspiring. However, for many normal people, celebrating the way they do remains a wishful thinking...
reserved for people with tons of money to spare, or for times when we have won in some sort of lottery (which would never happen to me as I don't believe in any form of gambling for, ultimately, gambling destroys lives).

So it was with nervousness that I finally succumbed to the wish of celebrating with our neighbors. Well, it was after my mom prompted me once, which I took as the Holy Spirit's voice telling me not to miss the opportunity of celebrating in a special way. And boy, was it special!

Heaven gave

My parents have their home near the ocean in a slum-area in the Philippines. Most of the houses are built on stilts (because they were built right over the ocean), with nipa leaves for a roof. Before the fire that razed down many of the houses, they were mainly made of salvaged materials of tin, posters, and cardboard. But after the fire and some government assistance, the residents were able to put up their homes again made more of bamboo or coco lumber.

This place is one where most of the feared violators of the law in our city lives. Children here learned early how to survive on their own by pick pocketing, stealing, and selling drugs, while the very young go hungry most of the time.

My parents are living here by choice. Many people have asked them why. They have their reasons. But still, I have never understood until I came to live here myself. The first time my family and I came to visit from Korea, I thought my parents had gone imbecile. But the next time I came for more than two months, I finally understood.

My parents have tried to raise their children as missionaries, despite the fact that they have not served outside of the country. They've left their hometown, towing along their very young brood of children with them, into different places. We had been to swamps, mountainous areas trooped with rebels, busy cities and rural towns. And I think my parents have not failed in passing on the legacy for the love of doing God's work.

Now that the nest has been empty for a few years now, and they have formally retired from the work force, my parents have ante up their ministry work. And the best place to do that is right where they are staying now. Their safety and comfort are in question. One could not expect that in such a place--- not with former convicts and felons as neighbors. Not with the smell of rotten fish, or pig sty, or sewage, or a combination of the three, wafting through every crack and openings of the house. Not when one cannot sleep through the night, with neighborhood children and youth staying up to the wee hours of the morning, shouting expletives at each other, laughing, singing at the top of their voices, playing music, dancing, breaking bottles, throwing stones, and fighting.

But my parents stayed. They stayed even after the fire that burned their old house down together with all their belongings, and they had to start from scratch. A big part of the neighborhood burned down with the fire, too. My parents and their neighbors found themselves all in the same boat--- they had nothing. They received relief food and clothes together, eating the same thing, wearing the same clothes, and they all received help. From that time on, the neighbors saw my parents like themselves. Now, my parents feel that the community have accepted them. They have become one with the community. In that place, there seemed to be one honorable thing that people adhere to--- they don't harm any of their own... if there is no need to. 

This makes me think about Jesus, of how He has to become one of us so He can save us. It's because He was one of us that we, in our prejudice and erected mind barriers, are able to accept Him and love Him back. Sadly though, we still tend to harm one of our own. Oh, how could we do such a wicked thing to Someone who only wants to love us?

Giving little, Receiving much

Everyone helping Ella blow her candles... and wishing her well.
So we had a party for the young ones. My older daughter asked me who would be coming to the party. I answered, "Ella's friends." Surprised, she asked, "She has a lot of friends?" And many did come. We tried to limit the number of those who came by giving the invites only to the 2-4 age range, yet there were still gate crashers. And what a celebration it was. I can see through the parents' eyes their own excitement for their children. The kids played like they have not played before. And they ate. That was the main reason why we gave out that party. 

Many of the young ones are undernourished if not malnourished, feeding on non-nutritious food like a tiny cup of instant noodles or dried fish. It doesn't matter to them that they are eating junk as long as the food is cheap and tastes okay. They have something to eat, even just once in a day; and that is what is important. Many of them go hungry and sometimes just seek out for food on their own, mostly because there is no breadwinner in the family. And if there is, he is asleep most of the day, either because of hangover, or because there was no more money left to buy food after the liquor.

On Ella's birthday, it was very fulfilling to see the children happy, eating, playing, and having fun, receiving simple gifts from my birthday daughter. We didn't have much, but what we had seemed so much! That little lad who shared his food with Jesus, must have felt the same way that we did that day. He must have been bursting with joy seeing all those people, about 5,000 of them, feeding on the food he shared. He must have felt overwhelmed as we did. We gave little, but received much.

I saw my daughters making friends without discrimination nor prejudice, serving, happily playing and I want them to always be conscious of the majority of the world's population--- those who are less fortunate, because at some time before or in the future, we were and we may be. To allow the children to grow thinking that we deserve every bit of blessing, which we really don't; and going through life without thought of those who cannot enjoy what we have, and wasting, taking, getting all we can without mercy for our 'neighbors' or the next generation, is the cruelest thing that a parent can do to his child. It is sick.

After the party, I asked my daughter what she thought about her birthday celebration, and succinctly she replied, "Happy." She may not be aware of it, but that joy that she is feeling now is greater than if we had pigged ourselves out to gluttony in a fancy restaurant or simply invited our friends who have more than we have and who can bring their gifts to present to her.  It indulges our desire to give ourselves pleasure, but as most wise people know, they don't last. The joy of serving others, that's the only pleasure that lasts.

Giving good

By the way, July is national Nutrition Month here in the Phils (the loving way I call the Philippines). The theme for this year is "Gutom at malnutrisyon, sama-sama nating wakasin!" (Hunger and malnutrition, together let's put an end!) I wish I can do more to advocate for a 'No Hunger' and healthier world. Well, I can write and speak about it, bringing into people's consciousness to end hunger on their own means and way. Here are some that we can do together to take part on this fight against poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

1. We can start at our own family. What do we feed our kids? Are they healthy or highly processed? The more it took for the food to prepare, the less nutritious they are. And that speaks a lot about hotdog, sausages, canned goods, etc.

2. We can extend it to our neighbors. Adopt a less-fortunate family and share your blessings by cooking for them some nutritious meal or buying them healthy food like vegetables, nuts and fruits.

3. If you own a small portion of land, your family can start a vegetable garden and share the produce with your neighbors or friends or your adopted family. It will teach your kids precious lessons in industry, patience, humility and hard work. Your children will not waste their food by throwing them away when they learn what it takes to grow food.

These are simple ideas but I know it will make a difference in your life and in some people's too. Do you have an idea to help stop hunger and malnutrition? Share below. Thanks!


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