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Charity or Choice

The jeepney was packed, trudging through Naga’s busy school belt on a late afternoon rush hour, when everyone wants to go home as quickly as possible. I couldn’t move much with passengers on my sides too close for comfort. But at least, I got a ride. I don’t even mind the not so quiet handful of high school or college students seated towards the front of the jeep. The slow moving traffic made it easy for these two kids to hop in. I believe I’ve seen these two, or at least, I think I have come across people like them in another jeepney ride a couple of years back. I could recognize the sound of that drum and that horn that sounds like baby’s toy. One of them wastes no time in walking through the aisle and distributes what looks like pamphlets or brochures of some sort. I suppose something’s written that explains their affiliation or something. I suppose they were getting ready to do some song number. I have heard someone like them play. I should say that the drum beat is impressive. But that childish horn is distracting. But overall, they play a good catchy rhythm.

Some of the passengers get ready to give some. Some raise concern that such solicitation of cash is prohibited. There were murmurs of questions whether the kids go to school. Some expressed disagreement on tolerating the actions by supporting them. One passenger who was closest to the drummer told the kids that she would take them to the police so that they could receive some help. The relatively quiet crowded ride was broken when the drummer suddenly reacted violently towards that passenger who supposedly wanted to help them by taking them to the police. (If you think about it, wouldn’t anyone react violently if he/she was told that he/she would be taken to the cops?) What followed was a brief exchange of words in high pitch, cut by the other kid who quickly collected back those “pamphlets” (without getting any cash), while calming his partner and telling him to let the passenger be, before hopping out the jeep. (Too bad, I wasn’t able to hear that proficient percussion.)

This has got to be the only season that kids and adults (with the proper permits) could play some music or sing some carols and justifiably gets some money. At least, the solicitation would be disguised in songs. Kids hopping on jeepneys, approaching parking vehicles, or greeting shoppers is an appeal to the spirit of generosity spurned by the tradition of gift giving. It coincides with the increased ability to give, against the backdrop of release of thirteenth month pays and Christmas bonuses which should trickle down to family and community. Since we have a little bit more, perhaps we could give a little bit more. Philosophizing on this phenomenon brings one to the recapitulation and realization of the nation’s current conditions on poverty, on the need of the juveniles of the society to scrounge up something to get by. It could spark up the speculative sensibility to a series of questions on the status of their schooling, the awareness of their family, the employment of their parents, the circumstances at their homes that plunge them to present petitions to unfamiliar people. On a deeper dive, it should shake a person to the core on the role and responsibility to respond to this recurrence, struggling across a moral, social or economic standpoint.

IN that interesting interaction inside that packed passenger vehicle, some queries were tossed to the kid between the rows of sitting commuters. Where are they from? Do they go to school at all? The kid managed to murmur a response that he or they are from Pasacao. How did they get here? Did they hitch a ride all the way to an urban center for better opportunities? Better opportunities of what? Did someone bring them here? How did they prepare those paper which looked like pamphlets? Someone with the know-how on preparing paper and text must have prepared those, and most probably not those kids. The young child went in the jeepney with plan and procedure. They knew what to do, distribute the papers, perhaps say something and play some music, then probably get some donations and get the job done. It was not some immature invitation for coins. That was not some child’s play. That was not something that a group of young friends agree on to do after school. Some adult definitely oriented them on what to do, and prepared for their performance. Then, who taught them all those?

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35


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