Lessons learned in the pandemic

Doreen G. Yu - The Philippine Star

The past 18 months have forced us to rethink, re-evaluate and recalibrate our lives – whether we intend to or not. Those mandated to stay home, those who go to work, those who find themselves working only on and off…each one has had to take stock of life and reset priorities – for oneself, for one’s family, for others.

Since I have been blessed to continue working and earning a living, the realization that thousands, millions are not as lucky has had a profound impact on my outlook and attitudes.

I used to be rabidly against giving to beggars, street children and those who wash windshields, believing that some Fagin-figure runs the syndicate that deploys them to intersections all over the metropolis. But the pandemic lockdowns have pushed many to desperation, and the ones holding up makeshift placards asking for “konting tulong pambili ng pagkain” must have lost their livelihood, forced to beg in the streets to feed their family. Sure, maybe some of them are scammers, but I believe most of them are genuinely in need.

And if I needed any confirmation, my daily Bible reading led me on two occasions to the following verses: Matthew 5:42 and Luke 6:30. In the translation I use, both say “Give to anyone who begs from you…” So now I keep a stash of change in the car, sometimes biscuits, even a couple of plastic raincoats, that I can share with them.

I’ve been buying fruits and vegetables as much as possible from those naglalako, the ones peddling their wares from carts. I don’t make tawad (haggle) but pay what they ask – and I’ve found that almost always their prices are less than in the grocery or even my neighborhood fruit store!

Another thing I learned is to be kind – to delivery riders, gas station attendants, baggers at the grocery, security guards…give them a tip and always say “Salamat kuya/ate” with a big smile. Life is hard enough for everyone, yes, even for you and me; a little kindness will go a long way to making the day a bit brighter – yes, even for me, and you too.

There’s a saying in Chinese – gan en mei yi tian, be thankful every day. These days, waking up each morning in your own bed, able to breathe and have your morning coffee (or, for me, tea) are things to be thankful for.

Even when this is over and we’re back to “normal,” I hope I remember these lessons: Be kind. Be thankful.


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