Written by Rose Amelie Dungca
I am an only child. I’m selfish. I’m a brat.I admit to each one of these character flaws; but last Christmas I promised myself I wouldn’t be a Grinch.Since I was a kid, there had always been a special mist in the air when Christmas is near. The season never failed to keep me giddy and psyched up—not for Jesus’ birthday, but for mine, of course. It’s Christmas, after all! And what is Christmas if not for a new pair of shoes, a flashy new dress, and a whole bunch of gifts? So as far as I could remember, every year started with my real birthday and ended with my second-coming day! Of course, this is where I redeem myself.When I started living in the city, I also started building friendships. Aye, there’s the rub. These so-called friends are not the kind who tells you the good stuff about yourself like a Friendster testimonial.No. They are the ones who know the nitty-gritty things about you; who won’t let you forget about the silly, adolescent things you did in the past; and who feel compelled to tell you when you’re being your old egoistic, nasty self.Needless to say, they ushered in the period of “Enlightenment”—my personal enlightenment, that is. These friends of mine are the “good-influence” kind who dragged me to a selfless Christmas party on my last year in college. We spent a whole day with deprived kids, giving gifts, playing games, and singing carols. It was my first real Christmas—the best I had in years.
Until that day, I never realized how good I am with kids. Until that day, I never truly appreciated the genuine affection of a child. I love the way they cling to you like an anchor; the way they look longingly at you, silently asking for a bit of your attention; the way they accept and trust you without questions; and the way they call you Ate. The feelings I had when surrounded with such lovely, hopeful faces are beyond words. Nothing can equal the peace and contentment such an experience gives me.
Last December 9th, through P&A for A Cause (PAUSE), I was fortunate enough to recapture such an evasive moment of pure bliss. I joined some of the P&A staff in visiting RSCC, an orphanage in Quezon City. I was truly excited to bring Christmas cheer to abandoned and orphaned children, most of whom were no more than four years old.
The feelings that those youngsters elicited in me were quite different from my previous experience. This time around, there was no contentment, only a feeling of longing and need.
The place I visited with friends was a school where most of the students are indigent. There were apparent differences in how the kids from that school and those from the orphanage responded to us. Back then, when we arrived at the school, the kids were everywhere, teasing and playing around. This time, when we arrived at the orphanage, the kids were all seated in groups, eagerly waiting for us. Moreover, while we made the former utterly happy by entertaining them and giving them gifts; we merely gave the latter a momentary period of fun and laughter.
I never expected such a disparity. Having had limited encounters with kids, I always viewed them as one and the same—a fallacy of composition. Because of this erroneous assumption, I felt precariously unprepared for the emotions that engulfed me when we interacted with the kids in RSCC.
All at once, I was being protective of them, making sure I give them equal attention, trying to show them I care, giving them what they need. Those children looked so fragile and vulnerable. All that time I yearned to hug each one of them. Never in my life have I felt the compulsion to give anyone all I had, even for just a brief moment.
A single day of gift-giving did not feel enough. I consoled myself with the thought that we at least made their Christmas a little brighter; we helped keep their hopes burning.
Many of us look for ways to reach out to the needy and the unfortunate to make their Christmas a little brighter. It seems we equate charity-giving to Christmas. I realized this should not be so.
My experience in the orphanage taught me that some people need Christmas more than a day in a year.
We should not limit our chance of spreading love and hope to just one arbitrary day in a year. We should do this in any and every possible way we can, on every day of the year.