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Spiritual gifts

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For the last 20 years, Ramon has been spending the day before Christmas at Plaza Ferguson along M. H. del Pilar Street in Ermita. He buys a sack of chocolate bars with his 13th month pay and gives them out, but only to children and GRO, no one else.

Pete: (A well-dressed employee from a nearby bank.) Hey, can I have one?

Ramon: Sorry, the candies are only for those who are “in need.”

Pete: (Pointing to a prostitute on her beat.) That GRO over there, is “she in need”?

Ramon: She sure is in need of a little joy.

Pete: But I am also in need.

Ramon smiled and gave in, giving him a candy. From then on, every year on Christmas Eve, Pete would pass by for his candy and have long talks with Ramon, pouring out his heartaches at the bank on him, whose wisdom was precious gold. They became good friends.

Ten years passed. One Christmas day, Ramon disappeared. Pete called his cell phone. Ramon said he had a stroke and was too old to play Santa. So, Pete bought a sack of chocolate bars, picked him up, and got a monobloc chair from the bank.

The two were at the plaza, the aging Ramon seated on the monobloc chair, calling out to people, while Pete gave out the candies. By midnight, the sack was empty, except for one last bar. They looked at each other, laughed so loud that a policeman came over.

Policeman: Are you guys drunk?

The two laughed even harder and gave the last bar to the policeman. Strangely, the giver of Joy received the gift of joy tenfold, as Pete learned from Ramon.

In another story, widowed Irene had a small sari-sari store inside a subdivision in Parañaque. She had a hard time making both ends meet to send her only son Jessie to school. She knew Jessie, in his dire need, often swiped money from the cash box, but she kept quiet.

In time, Jessie became a hardline shabu addict. Irene knew about it, but, as always, just kept quiet. Once, their television set disappeared, sold by Jessie for shabu. Again, she kept quiet. Jessie never felt any guilt. He just wanted to feed his body with more poison, an escape from their dire poverty. Slowly, appliances at home disappeared one at a time. Irene would take it all with silent tears, which she never showed Jessie. But Jessie knew. Silence was better than screams. He just could not stop taking drugs, which numbed his feelings. He often screamed at his mom when she had no money for his drugs.

For 15 years, Irene kept some savings hidden in the attic. She put in a little every day until she had a small fortune stashed away for a “rainy day.”

That rainy day came like a lightning bolt. Jessie barged in one day with a knife, glaring, asking for money. Irene froze, not knowing what to do.

Irene: I have some savings that I have kept secretly for us for the last 15 years. It is enough to make you graduate next year. I will give it all to you now. You decide what to do with it. I trust you.

The word “trust” stunned Jessie. How can she trust an addict with a knife? Irene went to the attic and gave a big plastic bag full of crumpled bills to her son. It was the time Jessie could save or destroy their tiny family. She was banking on his good sense in spite of his viciousness and numbness. It was a big risk. She knew no other way.

It was Jessie’s turn to shed tears. He took the money, got a few bills and returned the rest to her mom. He bought a sumptuous dinner. Mother and son never had such a joyous Christmas for so long. Amazingly, Jessie did not need to go to a rehabilitation home. It was a miracle. He got out of shabu cold-turkey, the sheer will power inspired by a loving mother. The next year, he graduated in the top 19 and got a good job as an IT expert. It was his turn to support his mom. Strangely again, the gift of trust somehow melts distrustful people.

There are many stories in the big cities. Some are tragedies, some victories. Spiritual gifts are so precious today in our age of an epidemic of materialism — expensive iPads, rubber shoes the price of a laptop, all flooding the minds of consumer society, while we forget spiritual gifts of joy and trust.

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