“It’s none of my business!”
POR VIDA - Archie Modequillo () - October 14, 2007 - 12:00am

The other day I was riding on a jeepney with a group of noisy teenagers. Their language, although not really directed at the others aboard, was quite offensive. They were spurting out vulgarities like casual expressions, to which an elderly woman soon objected.

The rowdy youths turned at the woman and started insulting her for minding what they said was “none of her business.” Everybody else looked out the other way, as though no one heard the kids saying nasty things to the poor woman. So did I, at first. Then all at once—I don’t know quite why—I thought, I’d be damned if I ignore this transgression that’s happening right in my presence!

I turned and snapped out at the brats. Indignantly, I pointed out that they too might have had mothers or grandmothers, whom they surely would not want to be treated in the same rough manner they were treating the old lady. To my surprise, they shrank and fell quiet.  

It was then that I’ve come to a full comprehension of what happened with my friend months before. She is from a suburban town, and was visiting a relative in the city when she witnessed a traffic accident. A car heaving with teenagers crashed into a parked delivery truck, badly injuring its driver. The teenagers, as could be expected, blamed the truck driver. My friend volunteered to testify for the victim.

Her testifying meant that my friend had to consequently make several trips to the city, to attend hearings as soon as the case would be brought to court. Many of her relatives and friends, including me, were surprised upon learning of her willingness to participate in the possible judicial proceedings. We thought she should not get herself involved. Even if the truck driver was innocent, as she swore, he was a total stranger.

But she wanted to see justice done, my friend asserted. However much time and effort it was going to cost her didn’t matter. 

Every day we see decent, well-meaning people looking the other way upon seeing an injustice being done to others. “It’s none of my business,” one would quickly say. It’s reminiscent of the Old Testament story of Cain who said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” when asked regarding the whereabouts of his brother Abel.

This indifference is very prevalent in these times we live in. People have become too fearful of hurt or rejection to invite others into their lives. But in a world that is increasingly too overcrowded and too complicated, we desperately need to get involved if we are to see some order and meaning in our own lives.

In my youth I was very vocal, about anything. When the government was tapping young people for active participation in community affairs, youth organizers came to our town to explain to us the necessity for our involvement. During a meeting, I spoke out; and someone immediately endorsed me to be president. I was flattered, and accordingly decided to run for the position.

When I told my parents about it, they said I was foolish. I would get myself into a lot of trouble, they told me. And right they were; I did have troubles continuously coming my way. As unpaid chairman of the Kabataang Barangay (the forerunner of today’s Sangguniang Kabataan), I was plagued with many problems, from interpersonal conflicts among fellow youths to criticisms when planned projects didn’t push through.

But now, in hindsight, I can see clearly what great personal benefits I gained from that experience. I learned many things about human nature and my leadership skills were honed, things which have been very useful to me ever since. I also learned much about myself—that I am not a good politician, for one thing. But what is probably yet my greatest reward were the many friends I made, many of whom continue to enrich my life to this day.

Time and again I have been amazed at rediscovering how multifarious and great are the rewards of being involved—when you take the trouble to help a stranger, to protest against an injustice, or to assume a civic responsibility. It’s the same with founding a new friendship. We take the chance – amid both uncertainties and hopes – and find out that we are seldom ignored when we reach out in sincerity.

Oh yes, getting involved often means taking risks. The quarreling friends we try to reconcile may turn their joint anger on us, the drowning man we try to save may pull us down with him, just as the person we fall in love with may deeply hurt us. Yet in avoiding risks, we may end up embracing the very isolation and loneliness we wanted to stay away from. In avoiding hurts and disappointments, we become cold and inhuman.

British author Carroll S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, writes, “If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Avoid all entanglements, lock it safe in the coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will be unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

The person who isolates himself, conscious of either his dearth or his wealth, is a self-convicted prisoner. A closer look will often reveal symptoms of severe emotional disorder. Mental asylums the world over are full of people who have chosen to back away from normal human involvements.

It’s interesting how the times of our most intense involvement with others or in some cause stand out in our memories as the times when we were least afraid, least bored, least pessimistic about life itself. Any soldier will attest that his most vibrant moments were those spent with comrades at the battle front. That was a time when, despite sorrows, hardships and constant danger, they were bound to one another by a sense of higher purpose and mutual responsibility.

I recall that I was shaking all over when I confronted those riotous youngsters on the jeepney. Perhaps my blood was boiling over their harsh treatment of the old woman, or maybe I was scared that they would turn to me instead. Probably I was angry and afraid at the same time. But for the rest of that day and even until now, I feel warm inside every time I remember that I stood up for someone, that I had not left a good deed undone.

Getting involved and standing up for what we believe to be right can range from as small as helping a neighbor with her household garbage to as large as caring about the state of the planet. Little daily deeds can add up significantly. By seemingly trivial yet consistent, caring conduct, each of us can contribute to the world we live in, and, concurrently, to our own lives.

Every little act of genuine involvement we make breeds a personal consciousness that spreads beyond our own immediate welfare and that of our close loved ones’. It’s a special feeling that essentially intertwines us with all others, until the thread of each life is no longer a single strand but a part of the fabric of all humanity… and of all creation.

To say “It’s none of my business!” is failing to see things in perspective. Atomic scientists have found that the human body is made up of the same fundamental elements that constitute the whole universe. And there is no conceivable space anywhere that is not filled with it. Everything is interconnected—humans, animals, plants, the seas and all inland waters, the air, the earth and everything else far and wide. (E-MAIL: modequillo@hotmail.com)


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