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Opinion

A path to hope

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

This will be my third and final column on the book LET US DREAM: The Path to a Better Future written by Pope Francis during these pandemic times.

Pope Francis tells us to make the integration of the poor and the care of our environment central to society’s goals. These two specific issues – the poor and the environment – have been the message in almost all of the pope’s messages to the public – in his encyclicals and in his short messages and books.

He has given specific proposals which differentiate him from most other popes. These proposals have made him a controversial pope. While almost everyone agrees with his two general goals, there is resistance when he goes into specifics. For example, in this book, he says: By providing a universal basic income, we can free and enable people to work for the community in a dignified way. By adopting more intensive permaculture methods for growing food, we can regenerate the natural world, create work and biodiversity and live better… All this means having common good goals for human development earlier rather than the false assumption of the infamous trickle down theory that a growing economy will make us all richer.

Pope Francis has repeated this message again and again – that trickle down theory does not work. He has warned the world – time and again – that simply making the rich richer will make the lives of the poor better because some of the wealth will “trickle down” to them.

The pandemic has shown the tremendous gap between the rich and the poor, and the gap is growing wider. Billionaires will pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a ten-minute trip to space while millions of children go hungry every day. And yet these billionaires are praised and envied for their space experience.

I have read about the initiatives of certain well meaning businessmen to “share” their wealth or set corporate objectives that are for the “common good.” But if you read all these initiatives, they all sound like a “better” version of the trickle down theory.

One indicator, for example, is that the rich benefactors will decide how these wealth trickling down will be spent and who will be the benefactors.

Someone once wrote (I cannot remember who) that he or she noticed that the overwhelming assistance to the poor, by the rich, are managed by foundations run by well off people, and decisions as to where the money will be spent are decided primarily by the rich donors. And when asked why, the answer is normally: “This is our money.”

Pope Francis ends the book with a poem “Hope” by Cuban actor and comedian Alexis Valdés. The pope says the poem “captures the path to the better future I have tried to express in this book.”

Initially, I was simply going to write a summary of the poem. Then I reached the part where the poet wrote that the poor old man that we met might actually be God in disguise.

The Pope also wrote: “Let’s let his poetry and its beauty have the final word, helping us to decenter and transcend so that our people may have life.” Here is the complete poem.

HOPE

When the storm has passed

and the roads are tamed

and we are the survivors

of a collective shipwreck.

With tearful heart

and our destiny blessed

we will feel joy

simply for being alive.

And we’ll give a hug

to the first stranger

and praise our good luck

that we kept a friend.

And then we’ll remember

all that we lost

and finally learn

everything we never learned.

And well envy no one

For all of us suffered

and we’ll not be idle

But more compassionate.

We’ll value more what belongs to all

Than what was earned

We’ll be more generous

and much more committed.

We’ll understand how fragile

it is to be alive

We’ll sweat empathy

for those still with us and those who are gone.

We’ll miss the old man

who asked for a buck in the market

whose name we never knew

Who was always at your side.

And maybe the poor old man

Was your God in disguise.

But you never asked his name

because you never had the time.

And all will become a miracle.

And all will become a legacy.

And we’ll respect the life,

the life we have gained.

When the storm passes

I ask you Lord, in shame

that you return us better

As one dreamed us.

I hope you read the poem in its entirety and absorbed the message. Hope is the virtue we all desperately need these days. It is not even only the poor living in unsanitary overcrowded conditions, without enough means to feed the family, that is already losing or has already lost hope.

In our very short time on earth, we must do all we can to join Pope Francis in his quest to build a society where dignity for every individual is valued and respected through concrete actions so that the pope’s message will not just be a dream but a “path to a better future.”

*      *      *

October Writing Date:

Oct.  23, 2-3 p.m. Young Writers’ Hangout on writing book reviews with Bebang Siy. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

POPE FRANCIS
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