Not Unable

Sometimes, when we allow ourselves to look straight into children’s eyes, we see things we wouldn’t normally see. Empty plates, makeshift curtains that twist in the wind, silent violence taking the place of tenderness. Maybe we see dreams too small for some of us, yet too looming for many.

So we look the other way.

“This is an exposure trip,” we remind ourselves. “This is just today. This is not my life. I don’t know them. I have problems of my own. Don’t mind me. I am unable.”

Like many of us, the Rock Ed volunteer understands the default position that it is not realistic to resolve all the hunger and poverty that is abound. But this doesn’t stop us. We are all broken, in a sense, at this seeming hopelessness. But we appreciate the ‘coming together of many’ to make hope the general direction of our lives. It starts first in our thoughts, then in our collective actions. It fuels the endurance we summon to carry on the projects we started. We know we are not alone anymore.

Hope flows out from the awareness we generate through our music, our writing, our photos and so forth. We resolve to share our resources and gifts to rally each other on. To rally each other on until we see an overflow of action. This is our time. This is our people power.

And we rock and rally on even if it is not fashionable to be this hopeful. I know it is not sensible to feel this strongly about the future of the little Filipina in the photo, but if we truly look at things squarely, if we took time out to see the uncertainty that surrounds us, we will come to the conclusion that it makes less sense NOT to be this passionate about nation-building.

For those of us who have had access to education –

May it break our hearts to know that there is a big chance this little girl will never know if she is gifted in music, or if she has a knack for economics or public policy. May it pain us to know that it is highly probable, given our present situation, that this little girl may never know if she is keen on the sciences or math. Statistics show that a majority of the Philippine youth do not have access to finish the basic levels of education. This is our truth. This ought to be our pain.

This is not an exposure trip. This is not just today. These are our lives. We are them. Their problems are ours. We have to start minding others. We are not unable. We are just unable because—for the most part--- we are unwilling.

So we have to ask ourselves again and again, “Are we unable or are we unwilling?”

Gang Badoy, 3 November 2005
photo credit: Paolo Picones