Many eons ago when my hair was all black and my waistline was a thin 28 inches, I had the chance of visiting several countries during a month-long overseas training deployment provided by the Royal Singapore Navy. As a task to improve our power of observation, so to speak, our Tac-O (tactical officer) told us – me, the Singaporean midshipmen and a number of foreign Ensigns, to submit a journal of our visits.
One particular city that we visited was Bombay (now Mumbai, India). The first time I set foot on Bombay Pier I was like a kid who had entered an amusement park. I was ecstatic at what I saw. There were beautiful structures and buildings with intricate designs I had only seen previously in encyclopedias and magazines (wala pa internet noon e). There were street performers. I was particularly mesmerized by the snake charmers I had only seen in Hollywood films. Cobras emerged from jars and swayed to the sound of the flute. Men wore strange clothes that went well with their long curly mustaches and beards as big as their turbans. The look was somewhat funny to me but at the same time impressive. Local kids were so much like the Pinoy kids who flash warm smiles and wave to passing foreigners.
I had such a blast that I wrote everything in detail in my journal. When the journal was returned, my Tac-O wrote, “this is an interesting account.” In my vocabulary, when somebody describes something as “interesting”, it is leaning more toward the negative than toward the positive. So I wondered.
Later on, I found out that I was the only guy who had a great time in Bombay. The rest of the midshipmen, perhaps the whole ship, said that Bombay was a terrible place. The streets were filthy. Pungent stench filled the air because converting street walls as a personal latrine was considered normal and acceptable. The buildings and structures were dirty as well. Children were so poor that they looked like they hadn’t taken a bath for weeks. The men were no exception.
When I learned about this, all I did was smile. I realized that I had a natural ability to see the good in things that are invisible to many. I attribute this to the fact that I came from a poor background. As a child, I grew up near slum areas and my constant companions were the “batang squatters.” I see beauty when others see ugliness. (Thank goodness it’s not the same with my selection of girls coz you have to agree with me that I married a beautiful wife :))
I recall a story of Socrates, not the congressman from Palawan but the Greek Philosopher. He said there was a man from another city who wanted to live in Athens. So he went to Socrates to ask him what Athens is like. Socrates said,”Before I can tell you about Athens, can you tell me something about the city you came from.” This man replied, “Oh, my city is terrible. Its full of annoying and insensitive people. Neighbors stab each other at the back. They are so undisciplined. etc. etc.” Then Socrates said,”I’m sorry but Athens is no different. It’s a terrible place. It’s full of annoying and insensitive people. Neighbors stab each other at the back and are very undisciplined, etc etc..it is best that you find another place.” So the man left.
Soon after, another man came who wanted to live in Athens. When asked to describe the city he came from, this man said,”The city I came from is a beautiful place. People are very courteous and friendly. Although living there would be wonderful, I need to leave because I want to see new places and meet new friends.” Socrates replied, “Athens is also a beautiful place. Its filled with courteous and friendly people. You will surely enjoy living there.”
Think for a while, did Socrates lie? To the first guy he said Athens was a terrible place but gave a completely different picture to the second guy. No. Socrates did not lie. He described Athens based on the person’s perception of life.
It’s true that our thoughts can create who we are as a person…because our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions, our actions become our character, our character becomes our destiny. Our destiny starts when we choose our thoughts. We can actually choose to see beauty or to see the ugly. The reason why people are depressed and in self-pity is because they see hopelessness. The reason why people are afraid is because they see fear. the reason why people are mean is because they could not see the good in people.
I praise God because the Philippines is an incredible country and the filipinos are such a wonderful people. I have the most gorgeous and loving wife who has given me four incredible kids. I am blessed with an awesome set of friends. My life is overflowing with blessings… In faith, I know that the future can only be brighter and I proclaim this everyday.
And here’s another thing: I have the best community ever – the BCBP Pasay City. It is filled with loving and helpful brothers and sisters I’m truly proud of. Its a community of committed Christians who had been tested in the crucible of fire that they can sleep in the midst of the storm because they hold on to this faithful God.
We, one of more than fifty such BCBP communities nationwide, are a community of anointed servants who inspire people for we can see the beauty in things that are invisible to many. When people describe terrible and ugly things, Jesus points us to the beauty in them. What people see as problems, we see doors of opportunities. What people see as traumatic events, we see as sources of triumphs and victories. We hear this so often in our breakfast sharings. The greatest trials of our lives became the source of our greatest victories. When we hit rock-bottom, we celebrate because rock-bottom is the birthplace of victory. We surely know this because what we celebrate in every mass is the greatest tragedy in human history – Jesus being crucified on the cross. What many saw as a pitiful scene, Jesus saw as his triumphant moment. It became the source of our greatest blessing!
Call me crazy. call me naive. but this is the truth. It is also true that when God created us, He created a natural beauty within us all and God is the one that releases this beauty for the world to see. Yes, you are beautiful! You are so blessed! You are great! We are all God’s beautiful children!
May all you beautiful BCBP people look at the year that lies ahead of us with Positive Eyes, atuned to see the good and beautiful in everything. This will make our New Year a most fruitful and blessed year! God bless everyone!