Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Small Act of Kindness - Discovered

About 3 weeks ago, my wife and I were having breakfast when halfway through, we saw Larry, a close friend. As he joined us, I asked him how he was affected by the unusual storm which brought heavy rains which lasted almost 12 hours.

Larry said that about 70% of the houses in the village were badly affected. The whole first floor of his house was under water and he was only able to save a few personal things. Everything else was destroyed. He said he, his wife and kids tried to drive through towards the entrance of the village, but an onrushing torrent made him turn back fast and he found a spot on higher ground. They tried to get into the house but it was useless. A kind neighbor offered for them to stay overnight and even prepared warm food for everyone. It was very difficult to see how he would be able to "reconstruct" and to buy all the furniture, TV, etc. which took him years to save and buy. But again he said that he's thankful that no one in his family was hurt.

I told Larry that I became worried when I sent him a text message but he never replied. It was a simple message, "Hi Larry. Hope everything's fine with you and your family. Praying for everyone's safety". I told him that I was also concerned that maybe I shouldn't have sent him a message, as it could have been the worst possible time.

With a lot of sincerity, and with a warm smile, Larry then thanked me and told me that he received the message alright, but he had no time to reply as he was thinking of ways to save his family and some belongings. But at the moment he received it, it lifted up his spirit and told himself, "At this crazy and dangerous moment, at least there's someone out there who's concerned and who's praying for me". He told me that he couldn't properly describe the joy and courage he got when he received the message.

I learned something that day. I will never hesitate or think too much whenever I might again find myself in the situation to reach out and show concern, no matter how simple the act may be. It may be the life-line someone needs at that very moment. We don't know where a flash of inspiration comes from.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Celebrating the Spirit World

Christians the world over just celebrated November 1 All Saints Day and November 2 All Souls Day. The celebrations were significant for:

1. Honoring the dead, or the memories of the dead
2. Reminding all of us that we are mortals
3. The certainty of death
4. The certainty of life after death

What we remember in general about our deceased friends and relatives are their good side and the happy moments we had with them. These memories are part of our personal life history and therefore cannot just be dismissed or thrown away, and are always useful to us in one way or another.

We are mortals. We have an end. And it's good to acknowledge the limited time we have here on earth even if the reminder comes only once a year. We all know the value of acceptance of reality to our emotional and psychological well-being. But with the reminder, we also have the benefit of being able to prioritize well, and live out or actualize the priority. This again brings us to Stephen Covey's quadrant of the urgent vs. the important, where he talks about our tendency to forego or postpone the important matters and turn immediately towards the urgent tasks to be done today, with the resulting (bad) habit of always postponing the activities which build towards the most important matters. To my mind, the most important matters, by rank, are first, the spiritual, and next comes the family, and then our relationships with relatives and friends, our work/career/vocation, and lastly our hobbies. Why are these ranked this way? Basis is the durability or length of time that you will deal with the matter. Of course the spiritual is eternal, the after-life. Next is the family, because even if we lose everything else our relationship/s with family members will last until we die, especially if we gave time and attention in building the relationship while we still had the chance. Lastly comes our hobbies, because even if we spend an inordinate amount of time building skills, we will eventually lose or at least diminish our performance as we age. Also, it's common sense to say that people and relationships are far more valuable than hobbies or things.

Death will come earlier for some, and much later for others. If you have built a life full of generosity, kindness, love and care for others, then you can truly say that you have lived a rich life and that you can die peacefully, knowing the legacy and good seeds you've sown all along.

I believe that there is life after death, not only because of what my Faith has taught me but also because of some things I've heard friends talk about. One is why the wide-spread belief in demons and the spirit world. Another is, how cruel can the Supreme Being be if he only created us for this world. Another is, and this is a good one: There are 2 sides, either you believe that there is a God
and the after-life, or you don't believe (I think they call this group atheists).
a) If you believe and you built a really good and noble life based on this belief, then,
- if there's a God, you win, because you get the rewards, which you can enjoy eternally
- if there's no God, you don't lose anything because you've gained a lot of goodwill, friends, and solid loving relationships in this life
b) If you don't believe, then you will of necessity strongly believe in something material or of this world, like power, fame, wealth, possessions, building an empire, etc. and build your life accordingly. We know what happens to this type of person -  just watch Dominic Dunne's series on Power and Wealth based on real life stories. There are also lots of books, actually auto-biographies of people who "have been there" and have ruined their lives inspite the glitter and the "beautiful people" all around.
But, and it's a BIG but - if there's a God, the after-life and the spirit world then you will be losing, big-time!

If we look at our mortality with full acceptance and live our lives accordingly, then we can look at it squarely and say, "O death, where is thy sting?"

Let's go back to Stephen Covey's the Urgent vs. the Important, and it may do us a lot of good to sit down and seriously list down our priorities.