“It’s quite scandalous how our meal-and-travel, photo-snapping society still has helpless people writhing in pain or hunger in its periphery.”
In our busy community, noticing a peddler on the street in need of help is not something everyone is able to see. Or perhaps we have seen one, but to what extent of sacrifice did we offer to alleviate these people from suffering?
iVolunteer heard the story of Shiela (name changed for anonymity). She doesn’t work with iVolunteer but her action echoes our cause as her story shows that sometimes ordinary people are the ones who can make small but effective changes in our society.
A WARM HEART
After some concerned barangay officials noticed the alarming condition of a cigarette peddler, they took her to Ospital ng Makati (OsMak) for an emergency treatment. “I knew she immediately needed a warm bed, a change of clothes, and antibiotic treatment for her diagnosed pneumonia. [so] I asked her to stay in my place until she recovers.”
This is how Shiela responded upon seeing street cigarette peddler Lola Margarita in OsMak with no one to assist her. The old woman has no residence of her own, so the barangay officials, who firsthand welcomed Lola Margarita, let her spend cold nights inside the barangay hall sleeping on adjacent lobby chairs.
Although she has difficulty sitting up or standing on her own, Lola Margarita sells cigarettes to make a living. Each day Shiela passes by the same street corner where she met Lola Margarita, she takes the chance to have a light conversation with the old woman. She learned that the only family known to Lola Margarita is her son, an inmate in Muntinlupa Jail.
COURAGE AND VIGILANCE
Having no background in social welfare or nursing did not stop Shiela from extending a hand to help. She admitted that “…[I] may have indeed been seen by others as weak, naive, or gullible. However, I was not stepping on anyone and I took all necessary precautions, closely coordinating with the proper authorities.”
HELP ISN’T ASKED, IT’S MANDATORY
“Social responsibility rests on those of us who have a free second of our time or a free hand to help.” According to her, it took her less to help Lola Margarita as more people tried to chip in and help.
Shiela also thinks that “anyone who has the time to support Twitter trends or post political memes/comments might also have the time to commit meaningful acts beyond social media’s purview.”
No amount of likes or shares can equal such a simple humanitarian deed. She also admitted that she cares and help others by the amount of time and effort she willingly gives. .
When asked how she felt after helping Lola Margarita, she replied, “I still feel like I have not made a difference. I live with a persistent guilt because of the conveniences I enjoy everyday and because of how limited I deem myself to be in terms of time and capacity to help others.”
GIVING WHAT WE HAVE
It is also worth mentioning that she thinks that “everyone has his own little way to make a dent.”
“Perhaps we don’t have to be limited by [the] standard acts of charity. We can ask ourselves, ‘what do we enjoy doing or what do we have in excess that can be offered for the benefit of others?’”
Yes, we can definitely share extra time, extra coins, our expertise, or our abilities to help others.
Now, Lola Margarita still lives in the barangay hall but with better beddings and with the confidence of improved health. A barangay official also committed to pay for her lodging so she can have her own place. She receives free meals from a neighborhood karinderia and receives financial support from her friends and the local DSWD. She promises to care more for her health if she is to peddle cigarettes again. Anyone who wants to see her can ask for directions to Barangay Valenzuela Hall.
Shiela is just one of the many people who won’t give up helping people. She continually holds on to her philosophy: “better to err on the side of giving a bit too much than risk a helpless person’s hunger, pain, or death.”
After all, helping is an action that doesn’t really need to be shown off to everyone. In our own simple ways, just like Shiela, maybe we could also give a hand to anyone, at any surprising moment. And find ourselves gladly rejoicing when we receive a simple, sincere “thank you” for our actions.
by Marie Joy P. Uy, iVolunteer Philippines
Photo credits – https://www.flickr.com/photos/kumon/43128198/