Spaghetti, Oatmeal, and Backpacks
By Ruth Ortega, Center for Servant Leadership, Philippines (CSLP)
I marvel at the realization that a small child can bring so much energy in community. In fact, it is a child’s smile that is a source of life for us. It is genuine, it is pure, the kind of response of the heart when it feels and it knows that the kingdom of heaven is there.
Over the birthday celebration of CSLP’s director, Kuya Pong Dolojan, we cooked spaghetti and oatmeal and brought it to more or less 500 pupils at the elementary school in Guinhawa. As we entered each classroom, the children sat quietly in their desks, staring at what we were carrying. We handed out packed spaghetti and a cup of oatmeal to each child and our hearts were overwhelmed with emotions as each face unfolded with a smile. Some of the kids stuffed it right away in their mouths, some in their bags. Of course the latter wanted to share their food with siblings or parents at home. Aside from the food, we also brought a few backpacks- some new and some used. Those who did not have bags were ecstatic as we handed them their first backpack ever. One girl named Aizcee stood in front of me. She had no schoolbag and was expecting one. While I showed her the features of her bag, she was breathing so hard, her eyes so wide that my heart almost fell out. The children chorused thank you as we left their classrooms. It was painful for Albert (CSLP senior student) to leave one little boy who was not given a bag. The boy uses plastic/market bag for his stuff and we came short of one. Cliff (CSLP staff) quickly responded to this need as he pledged to save for the boy’s backpack.
We got back home and reflected on the morning’s event. One of the students, a victim of child abuse and domestic violence, empathically said there could be children in Guinhawa school who will carry the memories of being given a pack of spaghetti, a cup of oatmeal or a backpack as their happiest childhood memory. Another student criticized himself as he confessed how he always searched for more, always unsatisfied, selfish and apathetic, but that day, the children taught him to be thankful, to be content, to realize that he in fact, is rich and that he is now required to share that to others. As a community, we realize that we are not in CSLP simply for our own sanctification. There are too many people who have no hope, too many children who could barely smile with their situations at home, too many people dying in loneliness, too many cries that go unheard. What are we called for? What is CSLP called for? It is our hope and prayer that we grow in inner freedom, and then give it to others.