In this valley of tears, where we are divested of all that is precious to us, only the questions remain. It was only two years ago, right after Sendong, when the questions below were asked. They have been modified somewhat but the gist remains the same. The reader will please forgive me this repetition at a time when words that are forced might only add to the debris and devastation. I only ask that you ask again with me and ask with those who are grieving. And pray for the asking not to end in bitterness. Let it echo on what has been hollowed out, let the questions be raised from the ruins. Let the asking be done at the foot of the Cross, and let it rest on the face of the pieta, on the faith of our Lady who in her life kept all these things in her heart. Let the asking be brave, out of love; let it not thwart our hope. Let it lead to tears even, but let the asking never end.
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When I saw raw footage of children being fished out of the water after Sendong, I found myself falling to tears, shuddering with deep anger and sorrow and helplessness. They were clinging on to logs that had been washed to the sea from the mountains. They must have been hanging on for hours,since the sun was already out and the sea calm. The children appeared to be in a daze as they were taken out of the water. In shock, they could not even cry, as children are wont to wail when lost or afraid or hurt.
Why must these things happen to our children? Why can we not see the folly of our ways? Why are we so juvenile we are disabled from imagining tomorrow, from grasping the consequences of our action and inaction? Why are we so senile we forget yesterday and fail to learn from the tragedies of the past?
Why must our children hang on to logs for dear life?
Children are by nature curious. The hardest questions are those asked by children. A child from an indigenous tribe asks, if our goal is to go to heaven, why do we dig the ground? Indeed we may ask with every child, if we must dig the earth to build our houses and schools and playgrounds, why are there so few houses and schools and playgrounds? Why must we live under bridges and learn arithmetic from counting coins we collect from selling sampaguita on the street?
Try imagining our country from the eyes of a child and ask.
Why are we so poor we live from day to day, and are left with little or no choice? Why are we so rich in gated places of the city while most in our country go hungry? Why do our hearts harden, our minds close, our arms give up so easily? Why can we be so selfish and proud we end up becoming quarrelsome and divisive, disabled from dialogue and building peace?
Why does our faith (Christian or Muslim, etc) or, more properly, the practice of our faith not seem to matter? The ones who can shape but instead steal our future, don’t they receive communion too? When our brothers and sisters face Mecca to pray, what does God say to them? Those who couldn’t care less about going to church or mosque or temple, where do they go and who is it that they worship?
Who learns and profits from going to school? If five children start schooling, why will four not make it to the very end? If heroes died to let this country live, why then must lives be lost continually to the water?
Why do we want to win and why is losing so hard to accept? Early on, we learn to play games, and play by the rules. Why do we change the lines when we step on them? Why is it so difficult to be fair? What is it about winning anyway that makes us so driven we defeat ourselves in our hate of the other?
Why do people lie and grab the limelight and take credit for what is not rightfully theirs? Why do our leaders take tribute for building things from money that is not theirs? Why do we live for the praise and recognition and allegiance of others?
Why do we live believing we are not loved enough? Why do we go about our lives unsure whether we are seen at all by those who matter to us? Why do we act as if God does not see us and see through us?
Try looking at our country from the jaded eyes of grownups and weep. Why can’t life be fresh and simple and true again, as it is to a child? Where and when do we lose all this goodness and grow to be greedy and guarded and unsatisfied? When and how do we grow so big and full it takes so much now to make us happy?
In that raw footage of children being fished out of the waters, one of the girls started to cry quietly. Before she was saved, she was with her little brother floating among those logs. She did not know where he was and she wanted to know. In her tears, she was praying to know.
Why do we pray for God to answer our prayers and not for us to answer His prayers?
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Yesterday, little Shoicho Kondoh of Japan gave his answer. The preschooler broke his piggy bank and gave all his savings to us. If children from far away can see what needs to be broken, let us pray and let us move so that what once was closed be now kept open.
[by Fr. Jet Villarin, SJ]