This summer, I was given the privilege to help in putting up a Remote Translation Office in a city near us. This is where our bible-based publications will be translated from English to Pangasinan, the dialect used in our place. The work commenced last March and is expected to be finished by December this year. To accomplish that target, many were called on to volunteer and help. Volunteers, whoever will be moved to share their skills, time and energy will be working with the team formed and assigned in this project. The team is composed of both men and women from different provinces in the Philippines. They are accompanied by skilled individuals from other countries like Australia, Canada and Germany. They have been working, rain or shine, without any compensation; devoting their time for a project that will eventually be an aid to help more people learn more about the bible.
For 11 consecutive Tuesdays, I served as one of those volunteers. Armed with a jacket, a pair of gloves, a hard hat and with what most of my friends call an almost man-like strength, I spent those days doing jobs which are usually performed by men – lugging sacks (sometimes pails) of sand, rock or cement, shoveling… – things that I have never thought I could do. It was an ecstatic experience weightier than winning an award in a literary contest or joining seminars that allow me to listen to well-known broadcast journalists. Moreover, it has left me with lessons I can always apply wherever I am. For now, I will only mention two of those lessons.
1. Never be afraid of meeting new faces.
Strange or new faces may sometimes rattle us. The thought of talking to them may seem challenging especially for those who don’t feel comfortable starting a conversation. But there’s a solution to that – smile! My friends and I come to the site every Tuesday, and we are always separated from each other once we’re already there. For several times, I have been assigned to work under the supervision of a person I don’t know, and who knows nothing about me, and for several times too I got cold feet. But I learned flashing a smile, a genuine smile doesn’t hurt. You are opening your doors to wonderful thoughts and uplifting conversations when you’re smiling. You don’t always need to be the first one to utter a word, but a smile can send others a signal that you are willing to get to know them.
2. When you’re already on top, it’s ok to look down.
I was also given tasks which required me to stay on top of scaffolding while working. It’s not always easy. The higher the scaffolding, the more worried I would become. If climbing up to the top of the scaffolding seemed difficult for me, staying there was more difficult. I have always dreaded the idea of me slipping or the scaffolding’s stands crumbling beneath me. One of the workers told me “Huwag kang titingin sa baba” (Don’t look down) and for some time, I paid heed to that advice. But I realized that looking down has always reminded me too of the need to make my feet steady or to be more careful with my movements; otherwise, I would fall and hit the ground. This is somewhat similar to how we deal with the high points in life, with our own victories or successes. Many forget to look back once they’re already on top and to some extent lose sight on their so-called humble beginnings. Some forget the people who helped them when they’re still trying to achieve their goals, and that’s the worst thing a person can ever do. Looking back at our past struggles may not really be that bad. Doing so might even teach us humility and courage.
I went back to work (I am teacher) in June and I didn’t get the chance to work again at the site since then. But I will never forget that experience as well as the fact that it changed me.