By Henrylito D. Tacio
Former Senator Juan M. Flavier is one of my favorite Filipino authors. Too bad, he was no longer with the Silang-based International Institute of Rural Reconstruction when I worked there in the late 1990s. Anyway, he is known for his parables. Here’s one of those which I consider my favorite:
The farmer had a series of misfortunes in fairly close succession. It started with the loss of his work animal, one of the best carabaos in the village and the envy of many other farmers. The thieves ruthlessly and recklessly butchered the carabao and only got the thighs. The body was left to decay and was eventually found due to the foul smell.
The loss of his carabao caused the farmer’s yield in his rice farm to dwindle drastically as he had to borrow carabao from other farmers. Then, a bad drought completely wiped out his already meager crop.
At midyear, his only son was caught in possession of prohibited drugs. The boy was also confirmed to be a drug dependent. His daughter then eloped with the son of his arch-enemy. “Anyone else except that family,” he moaned to himself. As if to inflict the unkindest cut of all, his wife ran away with the town policeman.
The farmer knelt in quite desperation and prayed in his small hut. “Lord, I have had it. I cannot take it anymore. This is just too much for me. I can no longer carry the cross,” he pleaded.
A blinding light blazed upon the farmer as a kindly voice boomed: “I understand how you feel, my son. If you cannot bear your cross anymore, then come enter the room of crosses. Leave your cross and select one whose weigh you feel you can bear.”
Immediately, the farmer saw a door open before him. He entered the brightly lit room and left his cross by the door. He saw before him all sorts of bulky crosses – all much larger and heavier than his.
There was even bloodied cross which towered so high he could not discern its top. There were crosses made of narra, yakal, and even solid iron. One after another, he tried but could barely lift the crosses. Finally, he saw a small cross which appeared manageable. He heaved it upon his shoulders where it rested comfortably. “Lord, I like this one,” the farmer announced.
The Lord replied, “My son, that is the very same cross you brought in. Take it and go in peace.”
Sometimes, we thought our sufferings are too much to bear. Unknowingly, compared with others, ours may be miniscule. Italian poet, novelist, and translator Cesare Pavese once pointed out: “Suffering is by no means a privilege, a sign of nobility, a reminder of God. Suffering is a fierce, bestial thing, commonplace, uncalled for, natural as air. It is intangible; no one can grasp it or fight against it; it dwells in time — is the same thing as time; if it comes in fits and starts, that is only so as to leave the sufferer more defenseless during the moments that follow, those long moments when one relives the last bout of torture and waits for the next.”
Remember what Jesus said before? “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-34). “No cross, no crown,” William Penn thundered.
Science tells us that a pearl is formed by a grain of sand getting into a mussel shell. It irritates and causes pain. The inner part of the mussel sends tears which congeal around the grain and sand and make a beautiful pearl. So our sufferings and tears and irritations make pearls.
Barbara Bloom shares this information: “When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”
“Why did this happen to me?” We have no right to ask this question when sorrow comes, unless we ask the same question for every moment of happiness that comes our way. How right were the words of John A. Simone, Jr.: “If you’re in a bad situation, don’t worry it’ll change. If you’re in a good situation, don’t worry it’ll change.”
Sufferings are part of our lives. No one can escape from it. “If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I would not pass it round,” Oliver Wendell Holmes said. “Trouble creates a capacity to handle it. I don’t embrace trouble; that’s as bad as treating it as an enemy. But I do say meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it and had better be on speaking terms with it.”
Joel Fritz tells this story: “I remember a crippled man in the hospital when I was a chaplain for few years. He was unbelievably disfigured. His body was twisted like a corkscrew and all h e could do was sit in bed, day and night. If someone came to visit him, he could not even turn his head enough to make eye contact.
“Whenever I came around to visit him, my standard greeting would be, ‘Well, how are things today?’ And his answer was always the same: ‘Just fine, thank you.’
“Now, deep down in my own heart, I knew that if I were answering for him, I could truthfully have said each time, ‘Well, things are a lot worse with me than with you,’ and I could have understood. But seeing this man suffering and hearing him answer so lightheartedly, always did something to me: I always left the room both humble and joyful.”
To end this piece, allow me to quote the words of Rose F. Kennedy. “Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?” she asked.
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