Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Archive for August, 2019


Would you hug a stranger? 0

Posted on August 11, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 11, 2019 – 12:00am

‘Maybe we should stop being automatically fearful of each other. In life, we will all have to ask for help from people we don’t know.’

On a train from downtown Sydney a few years ago, I found myself sitting across from a tall white man. He was unkempt but not menacing. He was dressed like he was a tradesman wearing that signature neon green jacket. Normally, no one minds anyone during train rides. People enter, sit and get on and off without talking to each other. And so I was surprised when the man seated across from me called my attention to say it was his 53rd birthday tomorrow. I smiled and politely gave him my congratulations. I answered but without really meaning to continue the conversation. I remotely considered the possibility that he could be some kind of crazy guy. I avoided eye contact afterward.

After about two minutes, he addressed me again. He complained that his back hurt so much. I answered, “Is that so?” He kept on. And on. It seemed like he wanted a continuing conversation. I realized I was in a situation where I could not dismiss him and so I conversed with this man. I asked him why his back hurt so much. He said he was born with legs too long and so his back had been hurting for years. He opened his jacket to show me and judging from where his belt was, it did look like he had a short torso.

The next thing he said caught me by surprise. He said he wanted to commit suicide. I was stunned. I knew this was an “uh-oh” moment, to say the least. And I felt I was on the spot somehow. I instinctively looked straight into his eyes and said, “Please don’t.” I had hoped that his next words would be less disturbing since I really did not want to get involved. But he repeated that he wanted to end his life.

Here was a man who was clearly and desperately asking for help. This stranger had dropped his guard and exposed his deep loneliness. I was in full attention and heightened awareness.

I knew I was now in a serious situation I could not turn away from. I felt the magnitude of his pain. He continued talking. Actually, it was more like rambling. I could see his eyes swell up with tears as he narrated that he had lost his parents many years ago. He had no siblings nor a wife and children to come home to. He was miserably alone in his life. He repeated again that he wanted to commit suicide. At this point, I stood up from my seat and moved to where he was and sat down next to him.

I sat on his right side and put my hand behind his back. He started to sob while he covered his face with his hands. His elbows were resting on his knees. I put my left hand over his back, rubbing it as I said, “Please don’t commit suicide. Everything will be all right, sir.”

I did not know what else to say. He started crying uncontrollably. I pulled him closer and kept saying that everything would be okay. I told him that God was with him. I just kept on repeating the words, “It’ll be okay.” He seemed to be listening.

I caught myself hugging this stranger. Hugging is my instinctive way to give comfort and consolation. I wanted him to know that I was listening to him and was sympathetic to what he was going through. There were many other people on the train but they all avoided looking, much less having eye contact. They ignored what was going on.

I just sat there beside him.

Soon, the train had reached the station. It was where I was supposed to get off and transfer to another train to get home. I stayed seated beside him for a while consoling him as passengers got off and new ones came on the train. But I knew I had to leave very soon. I felt bad when I told him I had to leave. I whispered for the last time that, “God loves you, sir. Please don’t commit suicide.” I reluctantly left the train and went to my platform where the train home was ready to depart. I barely caught it. I entered a few seconds before the doors closed.

On the ride home, I sat quietly feeling a little guilty for not staying with him. It was a packed ride but I was alone in my solitude. I was emotional. It was quite a unique encounter I had just had. My mind was racing. Was it fate that I was put on the same train with this lonely man? I wondered if the man would actually kill himself. I wondered, too, whether I had helped him in any way or had done enough to prevent a stranger’s death by his own hands.

I wept silently and said a prayer for him. I prayed that somehow he could go past his feelings of suicide and make it through. I hoped he would go for professional help. I have helped strangers before but I had never faced a situation like this where I was actually bold enough to intervene in something so serious. I did not even know whether I was acting appropriately, culture-wise. Did I say the right things to make him feel better? I just hoped I did.

The next evening, I watched out for any news on television waiting to hear about suicides that may have occurred in the city. There were none. I felt some sort of relief. I will probably never know if he killed himself or not the following nights, or weeks, or even know what eventually happened to him.

I think about this incident often. It makes me wonder how many strangers out there are actually going through something so desperate that the prospect of suicide becomes an option. There are millions of people who live in big cities, and yet, ironically, one can still feel alone and alienated. So many people but no one to talk to. We are all going through something to some degree. But we are lost in our busy schedules trying to survive in this rat race, and we have unfortunately developed an attitude of not caring for others. And because of this, it has become a crueler world for everyone.

Maybe we should stop being automatically fearful of each other. In life, we will all have to ask for help from people we don’t know. I know many people, including myself, who have been beneficiaries of people’s kindness many times. I have also learned that a smile, offering a handshake, a simple hello can even lead to real, solid friendships.

By simply caring, we can all be more human again.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2019/08/11/1942232/would-you-hug-stranger#FrvWCpJyWxLtiWCA.99

Love yourself 0

Posted on August 04, 2019 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – August 4, 2019 – 12:00am
You can’t give love if you don’t have it. You can’t be running on empty.
When the song The Greatest Love of All came out on the airwaves, I remember being baffled by it.

“The greatest love of all is happening to me.
Learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all.”

I was intrigued. There was no mention of loving one’s neighbor or anything like that in the song. I actually thought that it was quite a selfish statement. It sounded narcissistic.

Growing up in Ateneo, we were always reminded to be “men for others.” It was the Ignatian way. We were taught to sacrifice and serve others, the nation. In the words of St Ignatius, we were “To give and not to count the cost/To fight and not to heed the wounds/To toil and not to seek for rest/To labor and not to ask for reward/Save that of knowing that I do your will.”

It was a bit close to the end of the ‘80s when I had an epiphany about the song. I was attending a human potential workshop and the facilitator asked us what we were most proud of among the things we had done in life and to write them down. It was a quiet moment of intense self-reflection. As I thought of my achievements and personal bests, the great moments of my short life paraded before me as well as the pains I went through getting there. It was a mixed feeling. I realized I had paid a price for everything I had done. I began to feel the pain and sacrifice I had gone through. While I felt that, I also felt proud that I had the courage and fortitude to do them all. I knew I could not have achieved what I had done if I did not love or motivate myself enough to write songs and express the gifts God had given me.

Then the facilitator asked us to put the list close to our hearts in the dark room while we relived what we had gone through in our lives. The song Hero by Mariah Carey played. It was a moment like no other. I was so emotional. My life flashed before me and I saw my strengths and also how vulnerable I was. I realized what the song The Greatest Love of All finally meant.

It’s been at least two decades since then and my understanding of self-love has grown deeper. We need to love ourselves completely and that includes all our pluses and minuses, our innate goodness and weaknesses. We need to unconditionally accept and be comfortable being who we really are. We need our own love and self-acceptance first to be able to love anyone. The truth is you can’t give love if you don’t have it. You can’t be running on empty.

To be an evolved human being is to know oneself so well that you are acutely aware of your own fine print. It demands constant self-evaluation and introspection. You must establish contact with your deep self so it can tell you how you have been living and what you actually want to do in life. It requires an intimate self-audit. It means we have to honestly look inward and ask the truth about ourselves: what really motivates us, what makes us tick, what are we passionate about, what is integral about us that we will never give up, what is important and meaningful, what are we ready to live and die for, what makes us happy. These are questions we will keep asking ourselves throughout life.

Before you can love yourself, you must accept that you are not perfect. Look in the mirror and embrace all your brutalities, anomalies, your shadow side and aspects of you that you are ashamed to admit. You must deal with them. Believe it or not, your shadow side actually bears gifts for you. Instead of suppressing them you must recognize their energy, and accept them fully and integrate them with the rest of you. You will discover that instead of sabotaging you, they can actually make you stronger and more authentic. That is the miraculous transformation you need to be able to do to generate love for yourself before you can share it with others.

Anger, for example, is not always a bad thing. Anger can remind you that your boundaries have been crossed and violated. It can actually protect you. It also reminds you that you have been allowing certain things to go on repeatedly and that it is time to stop.

Passion, libido are energies that can be used for artistic pursuits or building a legacy. They make you feel alive and productive and spur you to action.

Envy can motivate you to do better by pushing yourself more. If you explore hate, you may even discover a few things you hate about yourself. You will also notice compassion growing within you as you learn to be more accepting, to love and be at home with yourself. Self-acceptance actually makes it easier to accept others.

The thought of being kinder, or treating yourself like you would a precious object is what I mean. With self-love come self-confidence, self-forgiveness, and healing. When you respect and love who you are, you may even find yourself not being defensive about criticism anymore. There is much more to you than your perceived faults. You are not easily shattered to pieces by what others think of you. In fact, it may not even be worth your while to care about what people think. There are more important things to do than tumbling for other people’s approval.

“Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others,” said American author Parker Palmer in his inspirational books. You are a unique human being with the task of being who you are in this world.

When my daughter Erica finished her high school, I gifted her with a song that summarized all I wrote above called Live Your Own Life:

“Don’t take my word or anyone else’s/What’s right for me may not be right for you/I have my own dreams/I live my own story/And someday soon you’ll be living yours too/So enjoy your own joys/Gain from your own pain/Dream your own dreams/Dance to your own song/It’s the only way to go/It’s the only road you’ll ever know.

“Live your own life/Feel it so you know it’s real/Hold on to your own truth/Live life without any fear/Decide your own fate/With bated breath the world awaits/Make your own mark/All you gotta do is start.

“There are no two people in this world who’ve got the same point of view/There’s no one else who’s gonna live your life better than you/So cry your own tears/Believe in your own cause/Don’t be afraid if sometimes you feel lost/It’s the only way to go/It’s the only way you’ll ever know.

“Live life without any fear/Decide your own fate/With bated breath the world awaits/Make your own mark/All you gotta do is start/Everything you need is inside of you/You’re the fire and breath of your own soul.”

GREATEST LOVE OF ALL

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2019/08/04/1940285/love-yourself#0ER3IfJjHoP0w4eM.99

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