In October of 2009, I rediscovered the pureness of heart from orphaned or abandoned kids.
I was part of a one week stay-in training in Baguio called the PSI Heroic Leadership Class of XXIX. It’s a seminar which helped me understand myself even more, making me aware about my deepest darkest fears, and making me more aware of my deepest brightest dreams.
One of the seminar activities was an act of Agape for the kids at an orphanage called “Bethesda Children’s Home”.
I have many stories about my Bethesda experience. Stories like…
- being entertained by the kids with a Cordilleran dance
- walking from the church to the school which meant hiking 10 minutes down one hill and hiking a second hill to the school. Whew!
- playing fun kindergarten games with the kids
- singing nursery rhymes and songs
- hauling and mixing cement for the floor of 2 classrooms – this was our class’s contribution to Bethesda
- sharing a meal with the kids
- giving a massage and being massaged in a massage line
All these were remarkable experiences I had at Bethesda.
Amidst the many experiences I had that day with my team and the kids of Bethesda, I’d like to share just two specific stories that capture the essence of my first visit to Bethesda.
A helping heart strengthened in childhood
I start with the story of how PSI “discovered” Bethesda as told to us by our seminar facilitator Kokoy Reonisto. And the story goes …
When PSI “discovered” Bethesda, the school building looked like just two slabs of cement nestled on cement posts. It had no walls, no ceiling, no nothing except the vision of what it could become. PSI decided to help Bethesda through the Heroic class and built the first classroom.
What was interesting was the story of how the Bethesda community all helped in building the school. There were the experienced adults doing the brunt of the heavy work and the skilled work of mixing the cement and laying the hollow blocks that formed the walls of the first classroom. In the meantime, the Bethesda kids helped out by hauling their share of sand from one hill near the church, down the hill and back up the other hill to the school.
Most remarkable was the story of how kids as young as three or four had made their contribution to building the school as well. These kids would have small cup of sand nestled gently in both their hands. I could imagine how these kids would be highly focused in their balancing act, making sure that each precious grain of sand is brought intact to the school.
I could imagine the utter joy of accomplishing their contribution and flashing a smile of contentment. I could imagine the kids saying “Isa pa” and rushing back to the other hill to get another cup of sand to bring to the school.
As I reflected upon that story, I realized that the contribution of the kids to help in the building of the school was more than just an act of physical contribution. It was a spiritual act of Agape – unconditional love. Afterall, kids at this age will not hesitate to help out in any way they can. When the Bethesda kids see people rallying together to build a classroom, they want to help out. They are just that way, without any questions or explanations.
I have a strong sense that there is so much value and character to be learned when a little kid, from the pureness of his helping heart, is *allowed* to help out. I also realized that it was a powerful lesson in being part of something big through one’s personal contribution, no matter how big or small.
Imagine a little Bethesda child 20 or 30 years later all grown up. This Bethesda kid would show his own children that building and tell proudly: “I helped build this school in Bethesda!”
A helping heart rediscovered through Bethesda
This brings me to my second story about the day we were at Bethesda. I was in a group of 36 leaders from different parts of the Philippines. We trooped to Bethesda for a day with the kids.
We were given a choice of different roles to take. The Engineering group helped mix and lay the cement for the classroom. Another group played kindergarten games and sang songs with the kids. And yet another group helped out in the kitchen where we prepared food for the Bethesda community. The food was prepared near the church and would be served at the school – yes, at the other hill which meant we would have to trek 10 minutes down one hill and another 10 minutes up the other hill.
After cooking, it was time to transport the food to the school. One of our teammates, Nats, led in the distribution of work, like a dispatcher. The adults were given the heavy stuff like large pots of ulam or rice, containers of water, big bags of utensils.
The were all around us and wanted to have their share in the work of bringing the food down the hill and back up the other hill.
My friend Nats, not wanting to put any burden in the kids’ hands, said: “Ang mga maliliit na bata, hwag nang mag-bubuhat. Kami nalang mga grown-ups ang magbubuhat.”(Kids, don’t bother carrying the food, the grown-ups will take care of it).
The kids were silently wondering about Nats’ instruction.
I understood why the kids were wondering about Nats’ instructions. They simply just wanted to help, just the way they are used to helping. It’s a community where it is all so natural to give a helping hand.
I wanted to tell Nats to allow the kids to help. I kept silent knowing that I could communicate this message in a unique way that I have discovered through our seminar.
When my eyes met Nats’ eyes, we both understood each other at a deeper level. In a split second and without saying a word, Nats understood me. Nats understood and agreed that indeed, the kids just wanted to help.
Nats quickly shifted and allowed the kids to help in their share of the work.
Let the kids help. It’s natural for them to help themselves, it’s natural for them to help each other, it’s natural for them to help others.
I came away from Bethesda feeling that I had benefited more from the kids than the kids benefited from me. And I was okay with that. There was so much to learn from being with the Bethesda kids. Being in the presence of pure hearts is like an elixir for the tired man. It is like rediscovering that when we were kids, we were as pure as they are – pure-hearted we are.
How would you like to have the opportunity to help build a community of pure-hearted kids? How would you like to support a community that knows, without question or explanation, that helping is all so natural and that it is all within us?