"There will be other opportunities. There will be other tests."
Filipinos are a charitable lot. That a majority of our people are not themselves well off but are always willing to share whatever little they could spare is a testament to how we live this virtue.
Charity comes to fore during times of emergency or disaster. The recent devastation brought by the series of typhoons that ravaged parts of our country in quick succession provided an opportunity for Filipinos to show charity all over again. It is the all-too-familiar “Bayanihan” in action.
We were much moved by the images we saw on the news and on social media, and by the stories we heard from relatives, friends and acquaintances. Many commiserated and tried in earnest to ignore the ugly head of politics that usually comes with helping the needy. We know all too well government officials who grabbed credit for their donations, plastering their names and faces on banners and relief containers when what they were using were taxpayers’ money.
In contrast, ordinary people did not have to be prodded; they gave in cash or in kind to their networks of choice. Many gave their time and effort, even risking their personal safety as they volunteered for relief operations. Those who organized relief drives gave much of themselves as well. There was a desperate call for help—and many were too human to ignore or delay response.
Of course, we have to be reminded that making an online transfer for donation, for instance, does not automatically make one a charitable person. One has to keep abreast of developments and look ahead. How are these people doing in evacuation centers? Are their basic needs being met, are their rights being protected, are they kept safe from the reach of the still-raging coronavirus? We know, of course, that there have already been individuals in such shelters that have tested positive for COVID-19, as if their lives have not been upended enough already. And even when days and weeks have passed, we should remember: How are the typhoon survivors going to rebuild everything they lost? How will they recover from their grief, thrive and be productive again?
Part of charity is to help ensure victims do not remain victims, and that they are able to take charge, even in some small measure, of their future. There will be no shortage of those who are helping now, but how about over time, when we ourselves come to terms with our own scarce resources or uncertain next few days?
One unfortunate thing: For all our charity, we sometimes become too charitable—to those who don’t deserve it. We refer to leaders and politicians who, by reason of apathy or incompetence, not only bungle their jobs and actually cause problems for the very people they are supposed to uplift. We are too charitable when we refuse to call them out, and worse, when we vote then, again and again, into office.
There will be other disasters. There will be other tests. Filipinos will almost always show a kind and giving nature. It is our hope, however, that we display charity toward those who truly deserve it.