Life, peace corps, Philosophy

To Give Is Priceless

Well, as it turns out my appeal to the creators of Glee yielded nothing but a strange and out of place blog. Well, I decided to kick off December right! December is the month of Christmas and generally speaking, the Holiday Season is regarded as the season for giving.

At Least That's What These Guys Seem To Want Me To Believe

That’s why I decided to rip a page out of my journal, make a few edits, add a few pictures, and tell you a story about giving.

A few days ago I was walking around outside and letting thoughts roam around in my head. I stopped to buy a bag of warm and spicy peanuts, when I noticed a few street kids roaming around. I thought to myself, ‘If she (I picked the girl who seemed to be the leader) asks for something I’ll surrender my snack.’

Isa lang po! Sampung piso, diba?

Sure, peanuts don’t seem like much, but I just spent good money on those warm roasted delicacies! Also, I was very hungry because I rarely if ever have enough money to eat out, so I decided to save my pesos and hold out on dinner until I got home – but I digress.

The girl came up to me and said, “Hingi ako, kasi walang kami pagkain” (I am requesting your services, young man, for my family and I have nothing to eat.) I didn’t respond and quickly handed her my peanuts. I smiled at her, glanced at her hair that had been streaked orange due to protein deficiency, and kept walking.

Street Kids. If You Look, You Can See The Hair Discoloration.

A woman turned to look at me and began to smile, but abruptly stopped and turned around. This was most likely due to the fact that my face, on which I am notoriously bad at hiding emotion, looked very stern and serious. My simple act of “charity” left me with a strange and empty guilty feeling.

It always happens like this. For instance, just recently my family sent me a very large box. A package, if you will. Enclosed were several things I enjoy. Velveeta Shells & Cheese, Magazines, Books, etc. There were also a few things that were either useless to me

I Love You Guys, But I Just Have No Place To Put A Beaded Curtain.*

or just clearly not for me

I Didn't Lose THAT Much Weight.

I separated the things I could use (a pocket knife, my old chuck taylors, soap, bedsheets, and on and on) from the things that were obviously meant for others and set out to do my duty.

Several children’s books were given to a friend for a school project she was doing, I shared the bulk of the candy with Peace Corps staff and fellow volunteers, a friend liked one of the two backpacks I was sent, so I let her keep that.

‘Great!’ I thought. ‘All of this stuff is going to be put to good use!’

I looked into the remains of the box and sighed. The rest of the box was filled with small things meant for children. I knew what I had to do.

I filled the other backpack full with a large portion of the remaining goods. The next day, I walked outside to roam around beautiful Malate, Manila.

And Here At Any Random Hour Of The Day You May Find A Hungover and/or Drunk Peace Corps Volunteer!**

A group of three girls began begging for money. ‘This is my chance!’ I thought. The plan was to give one thing to each kid I came across until the bag was empty. Instead, the girls snatched everything out of the bag and asked for more!

I stared at them unbelievingly. They sheepishly backed up and left, their arms full of shirts, shoes, and chips. I watched them walk away, as I stood in the middle of the wheelchair access ramp that lead up to the mall and to Starbucks.

I felt guilty and defeated, but most of all disillusioned.

A fellow Peace Corps volunteer named Maureen was with me. She could tell that I was a bit stung by the event.

“Don’t feel bad” she said. “Next time maybe don’t give things to those who beg.”

I heeded her advice.

The next night across the street from the pension house I was staying in, I saw a group of homeless kids. They looked at me, but ultimately ignored me.

‘Awesome.’ I thought and smiled to myself. I ran back up to the dorms and grabbed the bag which had been refilled. When I came back down, I also noticed a woman and a small naked child. I opened my bag and said, “Gusto ba ninyo mga ito?” (Ya’ll want this stuff?) They looked up at me confused and then, registering that I was giving them things, they brightened up. “Oo nga!” (Yessireebobarooni!)

I opened my bag and they watched me as I doled out things to them. I gave the woman some T-shirts and pairs of these little shoes that looked like Crocs imitations. The older kids received a couple of canteens and the rest of the clothes.

I walked back to the pension house. My friends looked up at me expectantly, knowing about my first experience.

“It went well” I said, but honestly, that guilty feeling was still there. – Why? What is that feeling? The feeling I felt then and still feel now. I think part of my problem is the fact that others saw and knew what I was doing. There is something uncomfortable about that.

Then again, that might be in part due to this – “…(W)hen you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” – The Bible –

*sigh*

It’s like the act of giving is cheapened somehow when others see you. The problem is I feel guilty even when nobody else is around.

I think maybe the stronger part of my guilt problem is being aware of my own inadequacy. After all, what good is a little bag of peanuts in the long run? What good is the momentary fleeting joy felt by those kids to whom I gave clothes? The clothes will just eventually become soiled and torn anyway.

I just don’t know. These are just the thoughts that run through the troubled mind of one, Brandon Holly.

Honestly, regardless of all the guilt I felt, I saw the naked boy wearing an Oklahoma City Zoo T-shirt. The very one I gave away the night before.

And you know what?

That felt pretty damn good.

Much Love,

– Brandon Holly –

*It found a good home though!
**Seriously though, the place has a great falafel sandwich!

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4 thoughts on “To Give Is Priceless

  1. Lance Stephens says:

    I think you had me at the Velveeta Shells & Cheese (check out that ampersand!). Good luck with the next ten months! I’ll try to check in on the site more consistently! 😀

  2. hey brandon,
    stop being SO hard on yourself! one shirt to someone else, spreads 1,000 smiles (yeah. corny as fuck. but it’s the TROOF) to 1,000 other people. the butterfly effect.
    you are admirable.
    show the compassion you show for others, to yourself, and don’t feel guilty about it!
    God doesn’t care how you give, giving is love, and any kind of love in his book is awesome.

    love the blog
    – E

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement, Emilee! I’m flattered. Well, with that said. I guess I’ll just keep giving and hope that those 1,000 smiles turn into 10,000 smiles. And yeah, you got corny? Well, I have the whole cob.

      – Brandon –

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