Cooling down from a hard day’s labor of carrying and stacking cement blocks, I sat looking at a magnificent sunset after playing basketball in a dusty field with my newfound friends. The day had been spent building houses for the people in Bulacao, Philippines with my friends from Eco Habitat for Humanity. Sweaty and still feeling the twinge from the sun on my skin, we sat facing west, watching the sun slowly descend with the sound of children’s laughter as our music. I wondered when the last time I freely ran and played just like a child. Something about this place takes me back to a time when innocence wasn’t a question, having fun wasn’t optional, and being myself was all I knew. I looked around and saw the golden sun reflecting off of my new friends’ smiling faces and contemplated the true meaning of giving.
Initially, I perceived the idea of giving as my own contribution of uncompensated time and labor. However, that definition was beautifully shattered by two sisters I shared a house with for the night. The house belonged to a mother and her three children. The father was away, working in a different city to provide for the family. Their home, a simple concrete structure consisting of a kitchen and two rooms, had also been built by Habitat. That night, I slept on a door placed on the concrete floor, which the townspeople had brought with the hopes of increasing my comfort of spending the night on the bare floor. They had no furniture apart from a shelf with a small television and, just below, was a teddy bear carefully encased. The next day, I complemented the younger sister on the teddy bear, which had been coincidentally made by her sister. After a slight pause the girl told me to take it. She would ask her sister, but she was sure she would say yes. I politely refused, as I did not wish to take away the only toy they had. But the sisters were adamant, and as I accepted the gift, I realized I had just experienced the embodiment of giving in its truest form.
They had only the basic living essentials and yet, they gave freely. My encounter with the two sisters redefined the meaning of giving. It is easy to be generous when one has an ample amount to give, but true giving is when one gives without reservation, even if that is the last thing they had in their possession. Did I possess the capacity to do so? No. But to witness the act of giving in its purest form was an enlightening experience.
-This was a piece written by Rebecca Imaizumi for the World Nomads Essay competition in 2016 in the category titled, "A local encounter I'll never forget".
Photo by ever wild⚘ on Unsplash