By Mari-An Santos

I grew up believing that I should give as much as I can—whether it be in terms of money or kindness or time—whatever could be given, anytime, anywhere. It was only natural for us to give food to street children or old clothes to needy neighbors. Giving knew no timing. We did not need to wait until Christmas or our birthdays to find avenues and occasions to give.

There was nothing benevolent or arrogant about it, it was just something that we did. I never found it weird or out of the ordinary. What I did find bizarre, years later, was that other people did not have the same philosophy.

I was surprised at how people would jump at the opportunity to hold gift-giving parties around Christmastime at orphanages or hospitals. It was strange to see long lists of groups of people who were assigned times and dates when they could hold the said gatherings at an orphanage, making appointments for such exercises. It was also a revelation how individuals would organize groups of people to trek to the mountains to remote villages in order to donate school supplies before June.

I was happy to see all of these activities, don’t get me wrong. But it was all alien to me. Soon after I was settled in Baguio, I got acquainted with people who would call my attention to needy groups, schools, or villages. I and some friends would then mobilize help from others to bring books or old clothes and other things the community needed—even in the middle of the year.

When people admired how I could share with other groups all year round, I realized that I was at a very unique and advantageous place. I was not part of any big group that trekked to the mountains sponsored by big business to spend a day meeting people who needed and received help. I feel blessed that I can just go on a five-and-a-half hour bus ride to Sagada with boxes of books and school supplies, be welcomed into the homes of the teachers and principals there, and spend three days getting to know the children and their families who receive the donations from friends all over the world.

It is not something that every person gets to do. But we each do the most that we can with the resources we have been given. I am very thankful that I have been given the capacity to do so.

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