No, It Won’t be Over Soon

He would usually yell my name whenever I pass by the kiosk he works at, as I enter E-Mall. I would wave and nod in response. I would pass by the stall again as I make my way to the exit. The same thing would happen. He’d yell my name. I’d wave and nod. I didn’t really thought much of it when I had not heard his usual greeting on the few times that I went to the mall. Of course, he could have had a different shift; or he got transferred to another branch. I was sure he would be just fine.

I had a chance to somewhat get together with some friends. It wasn’t for pleasure. We had some business to accomplish, and we took the opportunity for some face to face chat. We exchanged experiences and observations on our vaccinations. We paused to make fun of our appreciations and frustrations of the past and present situations. When conversation came to the subject of taking a ride to carry my cargo. One among the group suggested that we take a tricycle ride from another friend – the guy whom I would pass by at the mall. Probably sensing my reaction, he gave me a brief history of recent events. He doesn’t work at the usual place anymore. He did food delivery for a while; but then something happened to the motorcycle. Now, he drives his sister’s tricycle at shifts with another driver. I should commend the narration which was delivered as a matter of fact and with little melodrama.

I felt like some object dropped on my head and struck me to my senses. Here I was, getting by easily, having become accustomed with online transactions and virtual communications and complaining of government decisions, and in a short distance, a friend has been silently struggling, slipping in this social sickness. That’s one anecdote to portray a face for the complications of the commerce of the nation. I must admit; it hurt inside to hear what happened despite the story being stripped of tearjerking titillations.

This guy used to have it easy. I mean, he’s no bank manager, but I don’t remember him having trouble with employment. I would always find him working here, then working there. He didn’t strike me as someone who would hit the bottom hard. I’ve always seen him as someone who could hustle to keep himself afloat in any situation. (Well, come to think of it, by driving passengers on a tricycle, he really is hustling to keep himself afloat.)

The day before, I heard an interview about this year’s activities on the Bicol Business Week over the radio (which was nice because I was expecting that by this time, there would be much political barking from different sides as a precursor to the campaign period). It was noted that unlike the past years when businesses from outside from Bicol were invited to showcase their trade and invest here, local businesses will be given the opportunity to take the center stage to provide venue for local economic recovery. That is simply and wonderfully commendable. Let’s stand and offer an ovation to that opus.

The air blows with a longing of a return to what used to be “normal” (despite the insistence of the idea of “new normal”). Schools want to have face to face classes. Local tourists ache to go on swimming excursions. Commerce wants to open its gates wide open and fill the seats to full capacity. All these and more are based on the principled premise of everything will be okay and alright soon. I guess optimism is good for mental health. But that would hurt when in reality everything will not be okay and alright, and will remain to be not okay and not alright for quite a long time. Now, you might be booing me for dampening your spirits down. But that may just be the naked reality of the situation that we’re in. Now, we’re all dealing with the Delta variant. Who knows? Maybe all letters in the Greek alphabet would be used up to label all the rising variants. Then after that, they might try compounding individual letters like Alpha-Beta, Gamma-Epsilon or Tau-Gamma.

We’re in the middle of a desert, and there are no green pastures ahead. We’re lost at sea and no dry land is in close distance. We’re in a desert island and no rescue will be coming soon. So what do we do then? Find an oasis in the middle of the desert. Catch fish and mollusks in the middle of the sea. Build a stable shelter in your desert island.

“whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength…” Philippians 4:12-13