We spent one hell of a month in Japan and left, almost, no stone un-turned. I say almost because it is clear to me that both Adam and I intend to return at some juncture so we weren’t really in a rush to see it all. We enjoyed it at our own pace and when we saw a deal jump up for the Philippines we decided that it wasn’t a deal that we could turn away from.We had made friends with a kind-hearted man while in Japan that had seen his fair share of the world as well and he had warned us on our way out to bring surgical masks from Japan because the air quality in the PI was so terrible. I wont lead you astray, it was terrible! The second we landed the thickness of the air was almost palpable. The heat wasn’t as suffocating as Indonesia had been but coupled with the chew-able air quality R and mom were almost immediately ill. The driving in the Philippines is stop and go at best and with limited lane depiction the drivers swerve and slam on their breaks as common practice.We went straight to the hotel where both girls attempted to keep their car sickness in check and took about a half an hour, and a liter of bottled water, to recover.
Ready to brave the night-air once more we headed out as a pack to find some dinner. I was struck. Simply, jaw-dropping, struck. There were so many homeless and begging on the street. Men we’re lying in the back of the carts they use to sell daily items. Some of them were resting others were less G-rated and there it was, all on display, because where else would they take it? We all have needs, some of us have a home with four walls to hide them behind. My heart broke for their lack of privacy to match their human desires for relief. Further up the road was a father asking for money for his shoe-less toddler. Again, my heart sank and the guilt of my sadness on their behalf overtook me. Who am I to “feel bad” for them? And what could I do?
The next day it was glaringly obvious that the adults of the community had succumb to third degree foot burns and some more drastic then that even. I was once again moved into a place of comfortable guilt. I have so much. We have so much. Even out of backpacks we live in such abundance, never thinking twice about a need. If my children needed shoes they would have them FITTED to their feet within the hour. We went into the nearest shoe store and purchased a R size shoe (hers were in perfect condition and only a month old.) I asked her what to do with the spare pair and she offered up that we should give them to the first child on the street that had none. These are the moments parents. Revel. Marvel. They are watching. They are soaking it in and they will apply it when given the opportunity.
We did just that. We gifted the shoes. As we handed them over I couldn’t help but wonder, would they wear them? Has this society become so familiar with this lack that they have adapted to finding them irrelevant? I looked around me and all I could see was shoe-less feet aside from the Expats. I saw the blackened soles and my medical history told me EXACTLY how permanently damaged those feet and nerves were. The adult feet all shared a similar story of agony and pain. Years of blistering hot streets and unfinished roads had ended the symphony of feeling to the nerves in their feet and their concerns had morphed from comfort to survival. We did purchase a few more pairs of shoes for those we saw without. We gave; money, food and shoes but we couldn’t have scratched the surface of need for this country of beautiful people even if we moved there and devoted all our resources. I was….silently…beside myself. Temporarily paralyzed by my inability to create a tidal wave in a community where my ripple could suffice.
I went straight to my team, my board of advisers, my friends. How can we help? How can we reach? I typed as frantically as my thoughts would pour out of my heart. Each email was met with solutions; there were ways to put shoes on little feet, people who are in the movement of missions trips and ways to fund small businesses. The Philippines is a predominantly Christian society. A God-loving and God-fearing community. Each vehicle we got into serenaded us with a worship set that was complimented by the drivers harmonious, and always on key, voice. So, is that then why they are being overlooked? Is it because they aren’t seeking? Is it because I am in the wrong city? Maybe it’s because of my lack of education and research. Either way, I am broken by the lack and the need, a need unlike any I have seen in my well traveled and well mission-ed past.
Ready to blow off some steam we head to the local park for a game of family football. As we play I can see the local youth encroaching but it’s as if they are too afraid of us, or the sport, to engage. I tossed the football in the direction of one of the kids and he snatched it from the air as though he had been playing his entire 8 years on this earth. He ran the ball in, apologetically, but he refused at first to throw the ball or engage in the game choosing instead to find a safe distance on the sideline and marvel, with an ear to ear grin. Shortly after we sent R to introduce herself to one of the young girls and W followed to ask them to play. Before you knew it we had a group of ten or so children engaged in what we would come to find out was their first game of football ever. Once more I am brow beaten by our abundance. Just weeks prior we had lost our football to a cliff face in Bali and simply, replaced it.
After the game wound down, and we let the kids all get into a photo, a vendor passed us with some toys. My kids opted to spend their own money and purchase the local youth a few of these toys. Almost as quickly as I was struck by my children’s generosity the locals asked politely to refuse the toys in exchange for us purchasing them some water. I am a water maniac. I average a gallon a day and I have been less than quiet about how difficult it is for me in Asia to not be able to just fill up my water bottle and now, staring me in the face, were the kindest and most gentle hearts with a genuine need to be met that my life of excess had no recollection or knowledge of. There was a short time in Iraq when I was often without water. Even the water that we could carry was undrinkable because it would heat to a rolling boil in the rig while on convoy. Had it been so long that I had forgotten what it was like to possess an actual need for something that was literally life sustaining?
Leaving our new group of friends and walking home along the local lined streets it was all I could do not to cry. I likely would have had it not felt so selfish and unfair to those that were enduring the actual struggle.
Our time in the Philippines was limited do to an overlap of a booking in Thailand. But as I drove away to the airport it was as though I couldn’t catch my breath. I knew what I was leaving behind me and I almost feared that I would forget it as quickly as I had obviously forgotten the needs of the other communities I had served in my life. I have a tendency to marvel at the “complete” picture a traveled person obtains but the truth is that this world is so very very vast and that the needs are even greater than that. I hope to not grow complacent but to allow this travel to help me seek the opportunities to serve and to grow spiritually into a stronger woman of faith and action. I hope that my children see my works and learn to give more efficiently and effectively than I ever can or could. I hope to leave an impression on this world not as a legacy rather as an effect, a feeling, a moment of relief and joy that would otherwise not have existed. In short; I hope to learn, I hope to grow and I hope to sow love and joy everywhere I go in such a prolific way that it becaomes a contagious movement of love for humankind.
As usual I value your constructive feedback. Please remember that most of the people we are helping are in dire need and do not desire to have their photo taken. If you have ideas or organizations that are working in this venue that you would like to share or involve us in we would love to hear them! Just leave a comment below or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.