How far will a drop of compassion go?

I think your theme for this year is beautiful, and is so spot-on given the times we live in. Mother Teresa once said “We do not always have to do great things, but we can always choose to do small things with great love.” Gandhi also said “In a gentle way we can shake the world.” I think of that often, actually, especially in my line of work now as representative of the Fourth District of Leyte. My job can get overwhelming, especially for a neophyte like me — if I look too far ahead I just might falter under the pressure of what needs to be done against what the available resources will actually allow me to cover. Every single day, there is a sea of people that need to be helped. They come in a blur of names and faces. How can I assist of all of them fairly, equally? How do I ensure that the measure of help I give to one is the same measure I use on the other? My allotment will never be enough. What must I do? These are thoughts that play in my mind on a regular basis.

It is easy to just sigh and walk away with drooped shoulders, look at the world wearily and say, “I will never be enough.” But I cannot afford to do that. I cannot afford to be disheartened. Really, there is little else to do but jump into the task at hand, and help — one day at a time, one after the other as they come along, not worrying too much about how far my resources will cover, trusting instead in the good that can be found in everyone, second only to God’s bottomless providence and goodness.

You are representatives, too, dear Rotarians. You represent the very people that have moved you to join this esteemed organization. The Rotary Club has afforded each of you the venue to touch people’s lives and make it better. You did not walk away from the child that needs to go to school, or the school that lacked books and extra classrooms. You did not look apathetically at the community that did not have clean water; you went the extra mile to keep entire households safe from preventable diseases. You give so much of yourselves, your time, your talents and resources, all in the name of making the world a better place.

We must trust that this is never just about the present moment; whatever we do now will have a ripple effect that will reverberate for the generations to come. Who knows how far a drop of compassion will go? Society may give us different labels, but we are all the same in that we have basically similar concerns. Stripped of all the trappings of the sophisticated times, we seek the same things; we just see them in different perspectives and our triggers may vary.

But as children of god we know in our heart of hearts that we are programmed to serve. There is no escaping that. Every new day presents many invitations to a life of inclusion, that is, stepping out of what is comfortable and safe to embrace others who, at the moment, have less — and all these as hope lives on that the same kindness is paid forward so that the chain is never broken. The Rotarians, of all people, embody the ideal that “to whom much is given, much is also required.” We all must do our work in god’s garden.

Service gives meaning and purpose to life. Imagine if you live for yourself and yourself alone. Your world will be so small. You will be miserable. But step out of yourself and life becomes instantly beautiful. Instantly. Can you believe that? We are but a speck in this great universe, and there are other people with needs and concerns more pressing than our own.

I admire the Rotarians for actually doing something “to change the world.” Karl Marx said something similar: “Philosophers have until now interpreted the world in various ways, the point however is to change it.” Many times, our leaders suffer from the so-called “paralysis by analysis,” where we get so caught up in theoretical diagnosis while not much is being done. In comparison, Rotarians have done the actual spadework.

I agree, with all my heart, with your theme for today’s event, “Peace Through Service.” Jesus Christ did not say, “Blessed are the peace lovers,” for everyone loves peace; neither did he say, “Blessed are the peaceable,” for there are those who are never disturbed by anything. What he did say is “Blessed are those who work for peace,” or “Blessed are the peacemakers,” for we really have to work hard in order to attain peace. We therefore cannot achieve peace simply by coming up with grand formulas for it. Peacemaking is also not merely avoiding conflict for there are certain principles we have to stand by; much less is it about appeasement, for we cannot just allow some people to step over others who have rights that need protection, too.  

Even those whom we consider to be the least deserving — our enemies, those who do not like us — deserve some consideration. Gene Fowler reminds “People aren’t against you; they are merely for themselves.” A magazine article similarly explained, “The people who hurt us often do so out of their own problems, not out of their perception of us.” So it’s not always about us; rather there are needs and hurts out there that need attending to.

But I know that the principles I’ve enunciated here are already the very same principles that Rotarians live by every day. Hence, please consider these merely as humble but edifying reminders from a kindred spirit.

And that is essentially why we all are here. We are brought together by that same mission, and are all the better for it. Because as we give of ourselves, so too does the world give back to us. That is one thing that is at least perfect in this imperfect world.

We all aspire to leave a legacy. After all, that is how one continues to be remembered even after he has passed on. Over and above being a brilliant servant though, what we must aim for also is to be respected not because we are feared, but to be respected because we are loved. And that is something that cannot be achieved without giving peace a premium in every decision that has to be made.


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