Each of us has our own needs. Aside from the basic human needs, there are some needs that we may not be able to achieve right now or in the near future. Still, there are also other needs that we can have but sometimes others are unfortunate not to have them. The need for help, comfort, assistance and companionship are ever present for all of us, yet some of us are just not that fortunate to have them when they need these needs most. As a Christian, we need to hear out and act on God’s call for us to serve others and help them, especially those dealing with hard times.
I had this memorable experience just recently, when the company I work for held its annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) day. God’s grace must have led me that day to a particular activity to enlighten me and humble me. I have been attending CSR activities for the past years and the activities seem to be fulfilling, but not as much as this year’s. The activities lined up were mostly the same as the past years: coastal cleanup, community outreach, school rehabilitation and repair, feeding programs, tree planting and many more in the list. I was looking for a something new from the list, something that’s out of the ordinary and out of my comfort zone. I have joined several of these activities along with my other co-workers, but I seemed to play a minor role in all of these activities, not in the sense that I should have been the one who organized or led the activity, but I felt like I could have done more and should have been more connected or involved with the people I was extending my assistance to. For an activity with many attendees and participants, my role could definitely be minimized and lessened.
This time, I found one activity that’s not found in the lists I looked up in the past years — visiting and distributing cash and in kind donations to mental institutions and prisons. I thought, “Well this is something new. I should check this out.” and penned my name on this activity’s volunteer list. Surprisingly, only a few people enlisted on this activity and I was the ninth when I listed my name. We had a total of 20 volunteers for this activity. On the big day, I packed everything I need for the activity, and by divine intervention, I included my handy miniature bible in my backpack. Thankfully, things went well on our trip to the mental institution in the morning. The staff welcomed us warmly and the patients were cordial and cooperative as well, like ordinary, ‘sane’ people. I got to wonder why did they ever end up here isolated and stigmatized by society when they can be happy and friendly like the rest of us if they are treated nice and respectfully. We played parlor games and told stories to the more or less fifty ‘manageable’ patients with the staff and security personnel standing by and closely monitoring the activities from the sidelines. This time, I was particularly hands-on with the activity. I held hands with the patients during the games, laughed and talked with them as we told stories and shared goods to them. The feeling was somehow more gratifying for me than it felt before. Even more so when lola “Titing” or Esther, one of the elderly residents of the institution, said “thank you” to me for visiting them as she missed her grandchildren who are visiting her less and less frequently over the years. We had lunch and fellowship with the institution staff and patients and said our emotional farewells to each other. At 2 PM in the afternoon, we were scheduled to visit and distribute gifts for city jail inmates. Surprisingly, no one among us complained of being tired or drained from the morning’s activity, and we pushed on excitedly to the next activity. The jail warden and guards greeted us warmly but were still strict in following protocols and thoroughly checked our belongings and gifts. They guided us to the prison’s open court where they prepared seats and chairs for our activity. The inmates were happy to be part of the activity and eagerly lined up for the distribution of the gifts. We were given an hour to talk with and befriend a random inmate as part of our activity, with the guards watching close by. I came to talk with an inmate named Dindo. He was a convicted drug user, and was serving the eighth year of his commuted 10-year term from his 12-year sentence for good behavior. The long prison term taught him a valuable lesson: to think hard many times before acting or deciding on life-changing matters. He regretted that he joined his friends on a “session” on that fateful day. He expressed his bleak outlook on life after prison if ever he becomes a free man again. I asked him if he believes in God, to which he promptly replied “Of course I do! I wouldn’t have lived this long here if it wasn’t for Him.”. It inspired me and struck me speechless that people can still believe in God among the outcasts of society, where they seem to be disregarded yet they cling to God for hope. Thus, I shared him two readings from the book of Isaiah about freedom (61:1) and hope (41:10). He was moved nearly to tears as I read the verses, and I was moved spiritually that I was able to reach out and help someone struggling in life who needed it the most. I left him the mini bible not because I didn’t need it, but because he needs it more than I do. He thanked me again and said he wished he could meet me again as a free man someday. I gladly wrote my mobile number and email address on the last page of the bible for him to contact me one day. After we bid farewell to the prisoners, I felt that feeling of lightheadedness, not from hunger or fatigue, but that feeling of my spirit being lifted. It was a wonderful, indescribable feeling that I would want to feel again soon. I am back to the busy and hectic schedule now but I have included these two activities in my spiritual list of to-do things in life. God has truly wonderful ways of showing us things and making us realize our purpose in life. I now have something worthwhile to pursue in life: to reach out and help the people forgotten and cast aside by society.