Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dance with my father

When I was small, I had memorable birthdays. Unlike my sisters’ birthdays which always fall during school terms, mine falls on December, around the holidays. This put me at an advantage; my birthday was always celebrated; we didn’t have to postpone it or skip it entirely because we were still in school. It also made it easier for our family friends to remember it. I felt lucky. But that is not why I remember my birthdays fondly. It is not for the beautiful gifts I received or for the enormous love showered on me by my family and friends; it is for one little birthday tradition we had.

Later at night, when we couldn’t take in any more of mom’s scrumptious food, we would have a session with dad; a dance session. At the time our taste in music hadn’t been lucidly defined, so we went with dad’s choices. He listened to Madonna, Kool and the Gang, Janet Jackson, Vanilla Ice, Black Box, Fine Young Cannibals, Abba, Michael Bolton…he had a vast collection of albums, and I enjoyed listening to his song choices. He was (still is, but I’m not particularly into his current choices) crazy about music; I think that’s where my sisters and I inherited our ‘music bones’.

On my birthdays, there were these particular disco party non-stop mixes we couldn’t pass up. We had to dance to them, it didn’t matter how tired we were. If my dad forgot, we would beg him to dance with us and reluctantly, but happily he would join us on the dance floor. Mom wasn’t such a dancer, so she would just sit on a far sofa, watching us, visibly entertained.

dance

Sometimes engrossed in the fun, we would mimic mom’s reserved dance moves-we’d seen her dancing a few times-and unable to hide the excitement she would burst into a hearty laughter. It was fun. We were dancing freestyle; if we ran out of moves, we would imitate dad’s moves, dancing to the tunes. I loved every bit of it; my sisters did too, and so did my parents.

The last time I danced with my father was during my thirteenth birthday; when I entered teenagehood.

We made wonderful memories; but that was back in the day, when dad wasn’t too caught up in his own misery; when everything didn’t seem so dark in his eyes; when he wasn’t so bitter; when his leisure activities didn’t only include drinking and listening to morose songs.

I miss those days, and it’s not the dancing I miss, it’s what those moments represented. They were happy moments.

REJOICE; AND AGAIN I SAY REJOICE!

Think happy, and you will be happy…

cathedralcbs

NB: This piece is best read while smiling

Image “Be happy in the Lord, and He shall give you all the desires of your heart.” That is just but one of King David’s numerous nuggets of wisdom, coming from Psalms 37:4. Here, David debugs one of the misconceptions that have dogged Christian life for years. Many devout Christians erroneously hold on to the belief that just because we should be Christ-like, we are to lead a life that’s full of gloom and suffering. The truth, however, is quite the opposite. I combed over acres of Bible verses and I discovered that Jesus actually wants us to live a life full of fulfillment. In Psalms 16:11, David sheds more light when he explains that in the Lord’s presence, there’s fullness of joy and pleasures forever.

Happiness begets happiness, opportunity, and lots of luck. Sorrow begets nothing but more sorrow and misfortunes…

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Charity- of fake beggars

beggar

In my previous post I talked about helping the needy, because that is just one of the best way we can show our love for God. Then I realized something; nowadays many people are so skeptical about helping others, and it’s not because they’re mean, but simply because they’re not sure if they are helping someone or just being ripped off.

When walking from work in the company of two work mates, who are also my friends, one evening two years ago, we met a small girl; I would presume she was about six years. She looked quite ragged, with her short hair disheveled and her dress dirty and worn out. It was slightly past eight in the evening, and I could tell she was freezing; she didn’t have a sweater on.

She walked up to my friends and me, and stood in front of us with her hand outstretched. I stepped towards her, and placing my hand on her shoulder, I bent forward, so we were on the same level as I talked to her. “Who are you here with? Are you alone?” I was concerned because she was roaming the streets at that time alone; there was no telling what could happen to her; she was so vulnerable. It just wasn’t safe.

“I’m with my brother.” She replied, barely above a whisper. I had to lean in to hear her clearly.

“Your mom, where is she?” I pried. It occurred to me that maybe she was an orphan or had run away from home like many street children, but I had to ascertain.

“She’s home. She sent my brother and me to find money. If we go home empty handed she will punish us severely.” I sympathized with her; she was out there because her mom had sent her to find money. Her brother wasn’t anywhere in sight so I figured they had split, agreeing where to meet later. A part of me resented her mother for subjecting her kids to such insecurity; the young girl could get raped or worse… but then I reckoned I shouldn’t judge the woman because I didn’t know what state she was in.

I reached into my purse, pulled out some change, and gave it to her. My friends followed my cue and gave her some money too. It was only mid-month, so we didn’t have that much on us. Her face lit up, evidently pleased, and she scurried, disappearing into a street corner.

Almost twenty minutes later, we walked into a supermarket, which was just a few blocks from where we’d seen the girl. I wasn’t going to buy much so I just picked a shopping basket. After taking a few rounds picking the items we needed, my friends and I walked to the counter to pay. It was while we were making a turn at the entrance of the section we were in, that we stepped aside to excuse a lady who was pushing a big cart.

My eyes almost sprung out of their sockets in shock as I saw the young lady who was behind the shopping cart. I’d never seen her before, but the sight of the little girl we’d met earlier beside her helping to push it made me feel cheated. A young boy, who I presumed was the brother she’d told me about was also with them. He wasn’t much older than she was. I just couldn’t believe it. I felt duped. The young lady didn’t look needy one bit. The items in her cart only confirmed what I felt; she had used her innocent daughter to rip off unsuspecting people like me.

That night I almost vowed to never help anyone else, but then I reckoned there could be someone who could be really in need. A few days later we bumped into that same girl. She came to us, but since we already knew her mom was an able woman, we walked past her, a word unsaid. We passed a dimly lit alley and we saw a woman sitted there; we assumed that was her, waiting for her daughter to bring her the money given to her by kind-hearted strangers.

On a normal day, it just happens I run into many beggars; and on most occasions I have to reason my way out of conflicting emotions, wondering if they’re just people trying to make easy money. I see many people walking past them, and even though I sympathize with the needy person-because some are genuine-I feel I can’t also blame those who don’t offer them help; those who just walk by, failing to acknowledge that there’s a sick or hungry person asking for help sitted on the dirty sidewalks; because their actions could be inspired by caution as opposed to egocentricity.

I realized at the end of the day one can’t tell the fakes from the genuine ones, so if I have anything to give I’ll just give it to anyone, hoping it’s one of the genuine ones, because if I said I wouldn’t help so I don’t get conned, I could be punishing a genuine beggar because of a fake one’s iniquities.

The Narrow Door

narrow door

Jesus went through towns and villages, teaching the people and making His way to Jerusalem. Someone asked Him, “Sir, will just a few people be saved?”

Jesus answered him, “Do your best to go in through the narrow door; because many people will surely try to go in but will not be able. The master of the house will get up and close the door; then when you stand outside and begin to knock on the door and say, ‘Open the door for us Sir!’ He will answer you, ‘I don’t know where you come from! Then you will answer, ‘We ate and drank with you; you taught in our town! But He will say again, ‘I don’t know where you come from. Get away from me you wicked people!’ How you will cry and gnash your teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, while you are thrown out! People will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down at the feast of God. Then those who are now last will be first, and those who are now first will be last.” Luke 13: 22-30

In not so many words, this verse emphasizes that not everyone who calls themselves a believer will enter the kingdom of God.

Faith is like a two-sided coin. One side of faith is where one sings, praises God, attends mass/service and tithes… And the second side of faith is doing works of mercy: clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, taking care of the sick…etc.

For one’s faith to be deemed ‘complete’, one must practice both sides; serve God, worship Him, and extend a helping hand to others; preach what one learns in church/from the scriptures. In the bible verse above, Jesus refers to the entrance to heaven as the narrow door, and He goes further to explain that not many will be able to go in.

In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what My Father in heaven wants them to do.” This is because, when it comes to matters faith, many practice only one side; attending mass every Sunday, but the instant one leaves the church premises they forget everything they learned. For instance, one could be so faithful when it comes to tithing, but if a hungry man was to walk up to them asking for food, they would chase them away heartlessly. This is why Jesus calls it the narrow door.

Jesus asks us to go through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it, whereas the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard and there are few people who find it (Matthew 13-14).

Faith is all about synchronizing one’s action with their firm belief in God. In 1 John 4:20-21 he says, “If someone says he loves God, but hates his brother, he is a liar. For he cannot love God, whom he has not seen, if he does not love his brother, whom he has seen. The command that Christ has given us is this: Whoever loves God must love his brother also.” We are asked to love our neighbours as much as we love ourselves, but above all, to love God with our whole being; that is the definition of a true believer.

There’s a time for everything

hourglass

As it turns out, I have very many favourite bible verses. Recently I remembered of a certain verse: For everything there’s a time. Sometimes -I realized- I’m a good procrastinator. So I’ve been struggling with two major things that are too important for me to contemplate dropping either of them. I can do them together-multi task-but then one should happen before the other; more like juggling a career I’ve always desired and a hobby I’m so passionate about. I’ve been so tormented this past week, trying to figure which one I should deal with first; trying to set my priorities right.

In that confusion, a bible Chapter came to mind: Ecclesiastes 3.

Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses.

He sets the time for birth, and the time for death,

the time for planting, and the time for pulling up,

the time for killing and the time for healing,

the time for tearing down, and the time for building.

He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy,

The time for mourning, and the time for dancing,

The time for making love, and the time for not making love,

the time for kissing, and the time for not kissing.

He sets the time for finding, and the time for losing,

The time for saving, and the time for throwing away,

The time for tearing, and the time for mending,

the time for silence, and the time for talk.

He sets the time for love, and the time for hate, the time for war, and the time for peace.

What do we gain from all our work? I know the heavy burdens that God has laid on us. He has set the right time for everything. He has given us a desire to know the future, but never gives us the satisfaction of fully understanding what He does. So I realized that all we can do is be happy and do the best we can while we are still alive. All of us should eat and drink and enjoy what we have worked for. It is God’s gift.

I know that everything God does will last forever. You can’t add anything to it or take anything away from it. And one thing God does is to make us have reverence for Him. Whatever happens or can happen has already happened before. God makes the same thing happen again and again.

I thought about the verse last Saturday-a week ago-then coincidentally during Sunday mass the following day, the priest celebrating Mass mentioned the same chapter in passing. If it had been part of the day’s readings, I wouldn’t have read anything into it; but it was entirely different from the actual readings.

I believe coincidences don’t just happen; God makes things we had previously imagined come to pass, so it feels like we conjured them up, or making things happen at a convenient moment so they look like coincidences. It’s just God working; that’s my profound believe; but honestly it’s something I learnt only recently.

So when the priest mentioned that same chapter, I believed God was trying to tell me something. Based on that chapter, I decided to take one beautiful day at a time, doing what makes me happy. I’ll figure it all out along the way, with His guidance.

Almost Aborted: Part two

new baby

As I watched the rejection my cousin endured from close family members, the phrase,’ it’s only when you’re in need that you get to know who your close friends are’, made perfect sense. My sisters and I were always treated like outcasts, but now that she was pregnant, she was ostracized from the rest of the family.

While staying with us, she was warm; a side she rarely showed us; but we weren’t fooled by it; we knew it would last only as long as everyone else was against her. We knew she was using us, but we didn’t mind it; we wanted to be there for her. Apparently some relatives found out she was staying at our place, so they would try to get first-hand information from us; nonetheless, we guarded her little ‘secret’. Whoever wanted to know anything about her would have to get it straight from the horse’s mouth; from her.

Mom finally managed to convince her mom it was okay for her to keep her baby; so she went back home. Normally we hardly visit each other, but at that time we broke that unwritten rule. If we didn’t go to her she would come to us. The palpable forlorn look she had been wearing that entire time was replaced by a cheerful one. Her mom hadn’t reconciled herself with the fact that she was going to be a grandma; nevertheless, she was slowly starting to get used to the painful idea.

Eventually, my cousin gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. At three days old, she was the first new born I had ever laid my eyes on. I didn’t know how to hold her, because I was afraid her fragile neck would snap; but I got the hang of it. When some of our cousins made snide remarks in her presence, we stood up for her. Just like us, she had no prior knowledge on how to handle babies, so we imagined the frustration and pain she must have been feeling.

The first few days after my niece’s birth, my cousin seemed distressed; her eyes were ever red and swollen; we imagined she had been overwhelmed by the whole issue; she had to wake up in the middle of the night when the baby started crying… It was hard for her.

Every last Friday of the month, I accompanied her to the clinic for her post-natal check-up. I watched as the little baby girl grew from kg to kg. It was an honour for me. The feeling was amplified by the fact that she would cry when other people held her, but when I took her in my arms she would stop. Her grandma was shocked when one time she started crying, but when I took her, she stopped and started smiling instead, staring at me with her big beautiful eyes.

Slowly, we started drifting apart. Our routine visits stopped completely. But that was after the other family members saw the baby and fell in love with her. No one scorned my cousin again; apparently they all loved the baby.

During my niece’s first birthday, everyone was invited to the party, except my sisters and me of course. My cousin had gone back to her old snobbish ways; but honestly we didn’t mind it. We had known that would happen sooner or later. Her mom called my big sister to ask if we were going, but she told her our cousin hadn’t invited us.

My aunt asked my cousin about it but she told her she’d only invited the people close to her; the same people who shunned her when she needed them. We just laughed it off, genuinely unoffended. That’s the treatment we’ve always been given since forever by her and the rest of our snobbish cousins; we gradually grew indifferent to it.

This past Easter, my niece turned four. She’s a spitting image of her mom, although when I looked at her a few months ago I thought she had a striking resemblance to her uncle-my cousin’s brother. My cousin is the only one with a baby so far; our other cousins, my sisters and I are yet to walk down that road. So now that my niece is the only baby in the family, everyone dotes on her. Recently, during a get-together which my sisters and I skipped, the ‘senior’ family members were asking the rest of our cousins to follow my cousin’s example and get their own children.

Honestly I found it ironic; when she got pregnant, the same people thought she had made the gravest of mistakes, now they hold her on a pedestal, for everyone to emulate.

My niece is clearly adored by everyone, and I wonder how she would feel if later she finds out-God forbid-that many wanted her aborted. It was easy for people to write her off when she was only taking form in her mother’s womb, but now she’s here with us, the same people shower her with affection unreservedly.  Her grandmother for instance, she was on the forefront, championing for her to be aborted, but now when they’re together, I get the feeling she loves her more than everyone else; a complete change of heart.

“Auntie,” my niece called me when I was seeing her and my aunt off one Saturday evening a few weeks ago; they had visited “I want those.”

“What?” I asked her.

“Those,” she hinted at the jeweled gladiator sandals I was in with her eyes.

I smiled. “But they’re too big.”

“I want them in my size.” She replied confidently. I hadn’t seen that coming. Her innocent request had me laughing loudly, impressed by her witty reply. So now I owe her a pair of shoes. It’s impossible to not love her; it’s hard to imagine she was almost aborted. Nonetheless, given the strained relationship we have with her family, I doubt we will be seeing much of her in the future, God willing.

 

Almost Aborted

pregnant

When one of my cousins was twenty years old, she got pregnant. She wasn’t married at the time and she hadn’t introduced any particular guy to her family, so it came as a shock to everyone. Her mom was the one who was most affected; her daughter’s situation would subject her to people’s ridicule. She wasn’t prepared to go through all that; so she asked her to get an abortion.

My cousin was distraught; she was not prepared to have her baby aborted. She refused. When the row was going on, one of our cousins, who she was closest to, found out and started telling everyone. She turned her back against her too, disregarding the tight relationship they had before the ‘tiny one’ came into the picture. Before long, everyone in the family knew my cousin was pregnant. It was a difficult time for her; everyone turned against her. They felt she had committed a grave mistake. Some relatives rejoiced; not for good reasons though, but because the girl everyone considered holy had been knocked up by someone no one in the family had been formally introduced to.

Naturally, my sisters and I aren’t so close to her because she-like the rest of the family-always snubs us; we don’t fit in her social circle; I don’t find that an issue anymore-it’s just ludicrous (I fail to comprehend how people could put so much importance on material possessions). After everyone got wind of her undesirable situation, she was alienated, without a single person she could count on. Even the cousins she ganged up with to make our lives impossible ditched her. If they weren’t dissing her, speculating who her baby daddy was and all, they were celebrating her ‘misfortune’. She was all alone.

The situation felt especially difficult for her because she was a girl with a quiet demeanor, while her mom’s the kind of woman who criticizes others easily. My aunt feared people would unleash their wrath upon her, serving her a dose of her own medicine. She was disturbed. Before it became public knowledge, she had talked to mom about her predicament; she had a solution to obliterate the tragedy, but her daughter was too unwavering to comply. She asked mom to convince my cousin to terminate the pregnancy.

Mom wanted to help, but the idea of an abortion didn’t sit well with her. Instead she had a talk with my cousin, asking her what she wanted. She wanted to keep her baby. Subsequently, mom tried convincing my aunt an abortion wasn’t the solution; my cousin wasn’t willing to go through with it.

That infuriated my aunt. How would she face people? The same people she had always been too quick to judge? Eventually, she kicked my cousin out. We live in the same estate, only in different courts, and luckily mom had gone to see how they were holding up when she was thrown out. We took her in. Funny thing is, we were among the first people to hear it because when my aunt found out she told mom about it, reeling with shock, but we never breathed a word of it; it wasn’t our place to tell; plus we’ve been in that situation-having people make us subject of their scuttlebutt with reckless abandon-too many times to want to inflict the same pain on anyone. I also believe in the golden rule; treating people the way I’d like others to treat me…

When she came home, it was around Christmas. After the fight with her mom, her eyes were red; she had been crying. All we wanted was to make her settle in; no one questioned her about it. She would tell us if she deemed it fit. For the period she stayed with us, none of us brought the issue up, and apparently she didn’t see it right to let us in on it.

We were ignoring a gargantuan elephant in the house; sometimes surprised, we’d be tempted to innocently point out her feet were swollen as it was too obvious or that her face was glowing but then we’d bite our tongues real quick; she hadn’t told us she had a bun in the oven and we didn’t want to offend her. She had too much on her plate; if our willful ‘ignorance’ afforded her some false impression of privacy, we would give her just that.

At some point we wanted to suggest we take her shopping so she could buy some cute dresses because she was always in jeans and over-sized shirts, but we couldn’t. We had do act dumb. It was difficult, but for her peace of mind we refrained from saying or doing anything which would allude to the ‘little’ elephant we were all trying to ignore. I doubt I ever told her, but the thought that she refused to abort even when the whole world seemed to be against her made me admire her greatly.

Opposites Attract

opposites attract

I’ll never understand some things; not because I’m daft, but simply because those are some of nature’s machinations-but I know there’s a scientific explanation to it. Have you ever met two people who are completely different and you wonder how they ended up together?

When my sisters and I were small, my baby sister didn’t understand what was going on between mom and dad; fighting and all… She would constantly ask mom innocently, “Can’t we just look for another dad?” She was too young to comprehend the fact that the two were bound together by holy matrimony; it wasn’t just something mom could fix with the snap of her fingers…but that’s how kids are; they think their parents are super heroes.

She obviously felt dad wasn’t her ideal father, and she felt we would be much happier if mom found us another dad. If only it was that easy. If I had a choice, I would have gladly kicked dad to the curb on mom’s behalf long ago. I fail to understand how she put up with his abuse for so long, but everytime I remind myself, she was brought up in a very religious setting. She was going to join a convent; it was during the early stages of her formation, when she met dad and fell head-over-heels in love with him, plus she was a catechist… and the church preaches strongly against divorce…you know, ‘what God has put together, let no man put asunder’…

That in a nutshell defines my parents; virtuous mom (she’s no saint though) and a phenomenally mean dad (especially when he’s ‘under the influence’), and that is precisely what I don’t understand. They’re so different; completely opposite.

I know more than enough married couples, and there seems to be something common. It’s like nature went out looking for the extreme opposites and put them together to even things out. For instance, there are these family friends we have. We haven’t seen each other for a while since they moved to Australia a few years ago, but their family was a contrast to ours-last I checked.

The mom was the domineering control freak while the husband was so humble. The kids loved the father more. Then I have these four cousins, who have different fathers because their mom cheats on their loyal dad an awful lot. I’m not sure they know it; it’s an open secret.

I just can’t seem to trace any family with two ‘good’ parents. One of mom’s nephews- he’s almost her age- calls her a lot to ask for advice because his wife cheats on him brazenly.  He set up a business for her, lavishes her with gifts… he’s most women’s ideal husband. Lately he’s not been calling, so mom figured she should check up on him because the last time they talked he didn’t feel fine.

She rang him today. Apparently, his two kids-barely teenagers-threw their mom out. They asked her to take some time off to figure out what she wants to do with their father. I’ve never met her honestly, but from the description I get of her, she drinks a lot, doesn’t visit her kids in school, spends nights out, away from home… He, on the other hand is a quiet, laid-back guy.

That got me thinking; those kids wish for a better mom, like my sisters and I were wishing for a better dad. It almost feels obvious, if the wife is good, the husband is the villain of the piece…and if the husband is good, the wife is wicked… Opposites attract, literally; but for what it’s worth, I hope I’m wrong.

Making Choices

making choices

In my recent posts, I have been writing about domestic violence. It’s a topic I rarely delve into, because it takes me back to a past I try so hard to forget; but then some issues can only be ignored for so long. Many people blame their parents or someone close to them for their shortcomings. Personally, I have more than enough things I blame my parents for. Sometimes I feel if it wasn’t for my relatively damaged past, I would be a much happier person than I am today. When I sink into my occasional depressions, I feel my past contributed a lot.

I’m not the only one; I know people who despise the lives they lead because it’s not what they would have chosen under normal circumstances, and were only led to make the choices they made by undesirable state of affairs.

Nonetheless, life doesn’t always have to take the course someone else carved out. The good thing in life is that each one has the right to make their own choices. One doesn’t have to turn out damaged because they met/lived with an equally damaged person.

Studies show that many perpetrators of abuse were themselves abused at one point; dealing with the trauma turned them into abusers. But slowly I’m learning one can lead a totally ‘clean’ life; one that’s not marred by a horrendous past. The one thing which determines the path one takes is their willingness to change. If one desires it, it will happen gradually. It could be difficult at first, but with determination, nothing is impossible.