(A speech delivered to Filipino Physicians of Washington Induction Event in Seattle on October 18, 2008 by Jessy A. Ang, M.D., Faith Philippines Founder and Convenor, Global Filipino Nation)
When Glen asked me to give an inspirational talk to the upcoming induction event, I asked him what the theme of the event would be. His reply was “giving back.”
No time in our lifetime is this question more relevant than now. During the last few weeks, we witnessed a great financial meltdown. The stock market has plunged twenty percent of its value in only one week with banks and investment firms collapsing to it oblivion. The great American Dream has been shattered and most of us fear whether we will experience the Great Depression of 1929, but this time in global scale.
Before this financial crisis, some of us have considered to devote more time, at the expense of our medical practice, to help the poor and disadvantaged. I for one have thought of coming back home to the Philippines either through gradual immersion or total commitment advocating for causes that address children’s health, protection of overseas workers, and better treatment of the mentally ill. I intend to achieve this by offering my knowledge and skills as a psychiatrist as well as initiating a movement that will restore faith in our people to solve our nation’s ills through accountability, hard work, honesty, and hope. I have a vision of a nation where our people will care for each other whether they are rich or poor, Christians, Muslims or non-believers. I ask myself, “Can I still do it knowing that I have to give up my practice to make a significant impact to my advocacies, but still meet my financial obligations?”
Before I give you my response, let me tell you a story. There was a baptismal reception for a young man who was autistic. Sumptuous food was served and there was great festivity. The godfather approached the dad and said “What a beautiful sermon the priest gave. If only Peter understood it.” The father looked at his son with pity. Peter, who overheard his godfather, exclaimed with a loud voice and a wide smile, “Don’t worry daddy, Jesus loves me.” You see this young man may not understand the ceremony of Baptism or the complexities of life, but one message stood out. He is loved and desires to be loved. People with disabilities not only seek assistance but also crave for acceptance. The same is true with the forgotten poor, the deprived children, and the emotionally anguished. They desire not only relief of their physical wants and emotional distress but also desire human touch if not possible friendship.
All of us here have been generous in one form or another. We give to our favorite charitable organizations that help the poor and the downtrodden. However, most of us only extend assistance, so long as it does not disrupt the normal pleasure of life and threatens our financial security.We give so long as we do not see the lonely faces we are giving. We give so long as we do not feel the pain that they bear. We give but we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable to their anguish and fears. But unless we touch those frail hands, see those lonely faces and reassure them that they are not alone, then that great human experience of compassion, called love, will not transpire.
For such generosity to transcend to a higher level, let us first bring this discovery to our families and profession. Bring back the passion in our relationships. Let the courtship conversations begin. Treasure every opportunity we can have with our grown up children. Fill those conversations with laughter. Reminisce the memories of our children’s yesteryears. To those who still have young children, enjoy their playfulness and innocence for they are on borrowed time. Contain your expectations and provide them constant hugs of affirmation.
For us physicians, we need to treat our patients with dignity and respect. Treat them not only for their symptoms but as persons broken down by ailments. Listen to their stories with patience and understanding. Thereafter, we need to connect with our suffering humanity. Discover our potential and use it to the fullest to make this world a caring world.
Blessed Mother Teresa was once asked, “Where do you get the energy to wake up early in the morning and seek the dying in the streets of Calcutta laden with open flesh wounds and the stench smell of death?” This nun who was frail and aged replied, “In that suffering man, with all his open sores and the stench smell, I have touched and seen the face of the Living God.” If a nun who gave up all the comforts of her life since her youth can give love to the rejected and the dying, how much more of us who have been given the blessings of prosperity cannot do the same, even at a small fraction of what she did?
Perhaps from this great financial calamity, we can find blessings. Greed has been exposed to its ugliest form but the urgency for kindness and generosity is now called to action. And so, I now answer the question, “Can I still do it despite the many challenges I face?” The answer is “Yes.” When I see our children having to walk several miles to school barefooted and unfed in order to acquire education, the answer is “Yes I can”. When hundreds of our overseas domestic workers, being exploited, mistreated, abused, imprisoned, and even killed in foreign lands, my answer is “Yes, I must.” And when our people are dying from hunger and lack of access to medicines and the mentally ill are forgotten and ostracized, my answer is “Yes, I will.”
Time is of the essence. I summon you to respond to this call. Share your talents, skills, and resources to uplift the suffering humanity particularly our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. Find a cause greater than yourselves, a cause far beyond your needs, comforts, and securities. Ease the suffering of our people with kindness and love. And with that human transaction, comes the great spiritual experience for we have touched and seen the face of our loving God.