Let me tell you what I did.
About a year ago, there was this little boy who had convulsions. His pitiable state broke my heart — body limp, lips blue, eyeballs rolled up, bubbles popping from the mouth. The boy grew feverish in — of all places — the front gate of my house. His parents who were carrying his almost lifeless body begged that the boy be rushed to the nearest emergency room. Liza and I happened to be the persons they implored.
And so Liza and I drove the family to the emergency room of JBL Hospital, where the boy was immediately attended to. There we learned that the boy’s name was Cyril James, all of one year and three months, and the only child of the couple.
His fever hit almost 40 on the thermometer, and he was restless. To calm him down, the mother excused herself, went to a corner of the emergency room, raised the right portion of her grubby shirt, and nursed her only son.
“Hon, he is more than a year old and he is still breastfeeding?” I whispered to my wife.
God’s mouthpiece shot back at me: “It’s more nutritious, you know – assuming, of course, that the mother eats something nutritious.”
That was too presumptuous of us. The mother wore a white shirt that could use some bleach, colorful shorts that none of us ever thought of donning, and lowly tsinelas that lacked the adornment of the costly flip-flops. Really, what nutrition were we talking about?
“Kunin ninyo ito,” we whispered to the couple, as we slipped a small amount into the mother’s palm.
“Ang laki naman po nito! Maraming salamat po!,” the woman exclaimed.
“Kailangan ninyo ‘yan. Alagaan ninyong mabuti ang batang iyan. Regalo ‘yan sa inyo ng Diyos,” came our parting shot.
Fast-forward to the post-emergency room scene. Although the boy miraculously survived, Liza and I never saw or heard from the parents again. I also do not know what happened to the boy after we rushed him to the hospital. Until a few days ago.
“Kuya, may naghahanap po sa inyo,” the helper at home told me.
I figured it was just one of those seasonal “namamasko po” beggars that I was ready to shoo away with my worn-out “patawad po” standard line, but the househelper said the man was particularly looking for my wife, Liza.
“It must be another Christmas basket delivery for us,” I said to myself. So I hurriedly went out of the house, all too willing to be a recipient of manna from heaven.
From the gaps of the wooden gate, I saw the image of a lean man, carrying something. No, he was carrying someone — a sleeping boy in his arms.
“Sir, Merry Christmas po,” the man greeted me from outside.
The voice didn’t sound familiar, so I drew nearer the entrance to take a closer look at the man, making sure the gate remained closed.
“Sir, magandang hapon po. Kami po ‘yung tinulungan ninyo noon, ‘yun pung bata na nag-kombulsyon.”
Flashes of the Good Samaritan story in the Bible played in my mind like a movie preview.
“O, kumusta na kayo? Ang bata? Nasaan ang Nanay niya?” I asked, one question after another.
“Nag-kombulsyon na naman nga po ang anak ko kahapon eh, pero okay na po siya ngayon. Nandyan lang po sa kalapit na bahay ang asawa ko.”
If there was no need for the child to be taken to the emergency room at that precise time, why was the father there in front me?
I felt queasy.
Liza and I were just talking about the lad a few weeks back, wondering why the parents never came back to update us on the boy’s condition. All of a sudden, the father of the little boy appears in front of me, wearing a helpless countenance, and carrying his sleeping son who, according to him, just recovered from convulsions.
If all that the parents of the boy wanted was to keep us posted on the boy’s condition, or perhaps thank us for past favors, they could have done so several months back. Why only now during the Christmas season? To my fertile mind, the timing was highly suspect.
“Ah, tulog kasi si Ate Liza mo eh. Sasabihin ko na lang na dumaan kayo pagkagising niya,” I told the man as I waved my hand to excuse myself to leave. So as not to sound too harsh, I muttered a kind parting shot: “Pakisabi na rin pala sa Misis mo, Merry Christmas.”
As I took small strides back to the house, my mind justified what I just did.
The man’s act of exploiting his innocent son in order to get money should not be tolerated.
I was right – I should never condone mendicancy.
That ought to teach him a lesson. He should learn how to fish.
I will help an ungrateful man but once.
As I entered the house, I saw on our dinner table a plate with chunks of uneaten glazed ham, and a fly swirling around it. On the countertop was a basket full of round fruits, all poised to spoil. Under the Christmas tree were piles of gifts given to us, some of which we already have and will never be put to good use. On the table inside our room were the loose change of P100 and P20 bills, and also some coins, just lying there for days, untouched and obviously forgotten.
I felt queasy again… but for a different reason this time around.
The Good Samaritan parable of the Bible was supposed to be a do-good motivation for me. Sadly, it became just another feel-good story.
And, of all times, at Christmastime.
Quote of the week:
“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us everyday.” — Sally Koch