Many decades ago, a woman was drowning in the river. Their boat had capsized while crossing from one town to another. The villagers said that someone heard her screaming, incessantly, from the top of her lungs, “Ayuda! Ayuda! Ayuda!”

    Until there was a deafening silence. When the rescuers came, it was too late.

    This was the tragic scene that flashed in my mind when I heard the term “Ayuda” during this time of Covid. It’s the word we use to describe the help, the assistance — financial and otherwise — that our countrymen are supposed to get from the government. When we get gifts of food, medicines, supplies or practical things we need these days, we also call it Ayuda.

    Although the word is foreign and borrowed, I think that it describes, with proper solemnity and dignity, the help given to our destitute countrymen who need it most. Till now, many of us still cannot cannot imagine how deep, and wide, and gut-wrenching that need and hunger is. I don’t pretend to know or understand its extent, its depths. But when I watch the news, I see the pure anguish in the faces of our poverty-stricken countrymen.

    They say, repeatedly — like that woman who drowned in the river —  that they might not die from Covid but from starvation.

    I think, in times like this, the real comorbidity is not the bad health issues that have weakened our immune system. It’s our callousness to the plight of our poor. Our lack of compassion. Our cynicism and skepticism that we use as excuses for not helping. Our band-aid solutions which we apply on Christmas or maybe our birthdays — our Marie Antoinette cakes which we throw about in squatter areas, to make us feel good and look good as we diligently take pictures that advertise our kindness.
    Well, personally, I don’t think there’s anything grossly wrong with that. At least, you reached out and gave some Ayuda!
    Nevermind if your motives were tainted. At least, you got off your butt, went out there, and helped. Unlike those who just so don’t care. Didn’t lift a finger. Didn’t even try.

    However (and this is a big however) we must never, never deceive ourselves into thinking that we are good, kind, generous people just because we did that. That would be grossly wrong. A lie. Deception.  Scum-pond hypocrisy. Because real generosity, real kindness, real compassion — all these are daily habits. The REAL thing is a way of life.

    Like these ladies from our subdivision who — way before Covid happened — thought of helping farmers to earn more by selling their produce directly to our village. So these ladies took over the logistics for this. They looked for an accessible site, on a street near an open field, set tables and stools for the farmers — and, voila! A little makeshift market was created! Since our pre-Covid days, it’s been selling fresh eggs, vegetables and fruits twice a week. We even have organic market days. If there are produce that aren’t bought, there are residents who volunteer to buy them and give these to our security guards! Ergo we have pretty healthy guards. And this happens every week. Way before we even heard of Covid.

    There are also residents who provide cold drinks, breakfast/merienda for our farmers. Whatever other practical things we can give, we just hand over to them while doing our marketing. Their smiles are priceless. They know these aren’t dole-outs. We are fellow-Filipinos giving Ayuda to each other.

    Or I remember this young businessman who gives a hefty monthly donation to a non-profit that gives free education to out-of-school youth and adults. For a year, the students are taught not only academics, but more importantly, about how they can have a transformed life in Christ. After a year of studies, the students take an exam with DepEd. If they pass, then they graduate from high school in a legit graduation ceremony — complete with caps and togas, a red carpet on the long aisle where they march down with their parents or loved ones, in an elegant, fully airconditioned hall owned by a Christian church in Pasig.

    I cry whenever I see these students graduate — some of whom were heavy drinkers and drug users, sexually promiscuous or sexually abused, eaters of pag-pag, scavengers, garbage-dump urchins, etc. I cry tears of joy when I see them receiving their diplomas on stage. It’s a splendid sight — with their teachers sitting or standing at the sidelines, beaming with pride, excited for their graduating students.

    I’ve seen 700-800 of them graduate every year, since my husband took over the helm of this non-profit, five years ago. He says that this is the most fulfilling advocacy he’s ever been asked to head. And there’s no retirement in sight for him since they’ve already set up online classes for their students. This time, they’re “borderless”! Because their classes are now online, they’ve had student applicants from as far as the Middle East and other Asian countries. Indeed, there are silver linings even in this time of Covid. You just have to look for them, and partner with God.

    Or there’s this one young businessman who went to my husband’s office one day, without an appointment. He just waited patiently for my husband to finish his meetings. When they finally met, he asked my husband to explain what this non-profit does. After ten minutes of listening, this young businessman said, “It’s ok. Thank you for explaining. I like what you guys are doing. I’d like to make a donation.” So my husband called one of his accountants. The young man wrote a check, chatted a bit with my husband as his receipt was being processed, then he stood up and left. Of course my  husband’s jaw dropped when he saw the check: for a whopping thirty million pesos. In one give. Just like that. With no fancy presentations. Just a ten-minute explanation of what kind of Ayuda this non-profit was giving to out-of-school youth and adults who just wanted a chance at graduating from highschool, to get better jobs, and most importantly, to have an excellent eternal-future with Christ.

    That’s the best Ayuda we can give anyone, by the way: telling them how they can have a transformed life in Christ. I see the stunning transformation all the time, from a ringside seat. Kids who have stopped cursing and are now talking clean, taking a bath, brushing their teeth, and finally smell good — I got that unsolicited story from one of our drivers who drove for those students a few times. This driver witnessed these kids’ transformation, and was so excited to tell me about it! Kids who have forgiven parents who sexually abused them and sold them off to strangers. Kids who are single parents and have escaped from serial, abusive relationships. Adults who just dreamt of graduating from highschool — even at the ripe age of 50. Muslims who dared join a Christian non-profit school, just to get free education.

    The stories are individually as unique as they are precious. We have a former kasambahay who graduated from this non-profit — and was hired as one of their admin staff! Isn’t that amazing? She’s now one of their most reliable office workers.

    These are just some of the amazing Ayudas I’ve seen. I try to be observant, keep an eye open for people who love to give Ayuda to others — often without pictures or fanfare.

    But again, if you ask me, please go ahead and take those pictures! Go ahead and advertise your ayudas, your acts of kindness! Who knows? You just might inspire others to do the same! Just don’t be too impressed with yourself because that’ll just spoil things.

    And yes, it’s very normal to feel good when we’ve helped others! Those are happy hormones that God gives us — to reward and encourage us to keep helping others, especially the poor who have a special place in His heart.

    Remember— the Ayuda we give to others is Ayuda that we give to ourselves as well!


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