Locked down again. Now what?
“Sir!” “Tay!” “Para sa imo ’ning pagkaon!” (“This food is for you!”) Three or four of us in the car screamed as loudly as we could to get the trisikad driver’s attention. Alas, maybe our voices were too muffled by our masks, and the old man kept biking away. I think I saw the corner of his wary eyes, though, so I can’t help but to think that our pleas to help fell not so much on deaf ears but on a fearful heart.
I don’t blame him. It’s not every day that a bunch of strangers in a vehicle call out to you. After all, if your usual customers are pedestrians, what would people in a big van want with you? But if only he had turned around for a brief moment. If only he had allowed himself the possibility that we meant no harm, that just maybe we were there to help… Then, from a distance, he would have seen the love in our eyes. And he would have felt the hope that our offering of food was meant to provide.
In the past month, prior to the recent resurgence of positive COVID cases, I had the privilege of participating in a couple of charitable initiatives called Pantry on Wheels. Donations went toward packing and distributing “Bags of Hope,” each made up of enough healthy food (rice, veggies, canned goods, noodles, bread, and more) to feed a family of five for one week. Volunteers would get into vans loaded with bags, and then drive around across various remote barangays to distribute them to our target beneficiaries: daily wage earners, primarily eldery trisikad drivers.
Despite our face masks, shields, and loads of rubbing alcohol, and despite our precautions not to draw crowds, the activity had its inherent risks. Yes, it would have been safer to stay home, but that’s a privilege that few can enjoy. Because what about them — the people who, every single day, have to choose between leaving home and starving? With one Bag of Hope, at least for one week, they wouldn’t have to decide. They wouldn’t have to hope that they and their families could eat. Because the hope was there.
But truth be told, the hope was there for us donors and volunteers as well. Honestly, in my mind, it wasn’t all about them; it was about us, too. Because on a very real level, we’re all connected, and what’s truly good for everyone is also good for you and me. In practical terms, for example, feeding these people more likely keeps them home and minimizes viral spread. And on an even deeper spiritual level, giving is a form of receiving, because there’s really only One of us here.
“One Mind. One Breath. One Yoga.”
“One Bread, One Body”
Thus, the only way to feel hope is to give hope. If that’s hard to wrap your head around, consider hope’s parent emotion: love. The only way to feel love is to give love.
In the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus, the shepherds who lovingly tended their flocks were the first to see the angel announce the good news. And in the account of Jesus’ death, Mary Magdalene, who had a great love for Jesus, was the first to see his resurrected body.
As we continue to grapple with the pandemic, the metaphysical interpretation of both stories is more relevant than ever: Hope is seen through the eyes of love.
But taking it a step further, it’s through loving participation in hopeful solutions that hope springs eternal.
For it’s impossible to feel totally hopeless when you’re giving hope, and it’s impossible to feel paralyzing fear when the deepest part of you is giving love.
But what about now, when elevated quarantine measures are more strictly keeping us home? For those of us who aren’t frontliners in the traditional sense, it can be very tempting to feel helpless, to feel disempowered by the injunction to “just stay home and wait it out.”
Well, it’s never about the material circumstances of our lives, but always about how we perceive them. When we wake in the morning with a meditation or a prayer etched in our hearts — “God, I’m willing to see this differently. Help me see through the eyes of Love, that I might be who You would have me be, that I might do what You would have me do” — we realize that the opportunity to give hope and love, and thereby feel them, is all around.
Reaching out virtually to troubled friends and family, cooking healthy meals for those who can appreciate them, donating to charitable organizations that have the infrastructure to safely help the most in need (UNHCR, UNICEF, SOS Children’s Villages, UNFPA, WFP, WWF and more) — there are so many ways to give hope.
When we align ourselves with the angels of our better nature, there will always be hope. There is hope because you are here. There is hope because God is here. There is hope because God dwells in you.