Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance. -Gibran
My grandmother passed on today at the age of 89. It was 11:00 a.m. this morning. She was my last living grandparent and, although I’d only met her a handful of times, I’d known her heart very well. My mother used to tell us how grandma raised her family in the midst of poverty and hard times. She shared stories of how they managed to survive and stay happy.
My last visit to the islands of the Philippines was in 1989. I was only 17 and finishing high school at the time. I remember grandma as fragile, yet jovial and content. The Filipinos I met were kind. My family was amazing. They all lived together in a “compound” about equivalent to a small middle-American sized house.
I marveled at how my cousins remained positive and happy. Ultimately, they were grateful which happens to be the characteristic I see lacking in America’s children today. It is by our nature to consume and to want instead of need. Sure, we have homelessness and poverty too, but mainline America is more concerned with furthering their wealth, that these issues go unkempt. In the Philippines, about 98% of the country lives in what we would consider poverty. How then, are these people happy?
The answer lies in their gratitude. Many Filipinos are just getting by, simply surviving. They don’t have a lot, but what they do possess, they care for and utilize. They don’t waste things, discarding them aimlessly, only to have to look for more possessions. They often want, but cannot have and this is the underlying difference that makes them grateful for things Americans take for granted.
I remember my mother packing extra Levi’s jeans and other clothes for my relatives “back home”. I remember feeling a little awkward staying in “luxury” hotels while my cousins, aunts, and uncles all slept on mats on the floor. But, they were happy that way. They had eachother and they had their health. They were very excited about the little pieces of “America” we brought in the form of clothes. I am, however, more grateful that I got the chance to meet them. My relatives were and are amazing folks who’ve taught me the importance of needs vs. wants.
For Grandma Nena Hernandez Cruz. Rest in Eternal Peace 12.31.07