With each day I get to enjoy living and coaching from anywhere to anywhere here (currently) in the Philippines, I become more and more convinced of the dynamism of the mind and the power of intention. Specifically in this essay, the intention of becoming a magnet for change.
This past week I woke up at the usual time of 6a and began my day, just like any other. Meditation practice for 15 minutes or so. Being thankful I have the opportunity to live where I’m living and do what I’m doing. Leg stretches to elongate my hamstrings. Performed a few typical morning chores. Laundry by hand (yup,) a light breakfast on the shady patio protecting me from the init (hot) morning sun, and swept the outside area with my very own walis-tingting Philippine broom.
After taking a cold shower, I thought about the intentions of my day. Pick up my passport at the Bureau of Immigration with my 60 day visa extension. A quick trip to the public market for fresh produce. Visit with the expat community for morning coffee. Read a chapter from several books on my Kindle. And a possible lunch with a friend.
Then I went to the clothing rack and picked out one of the tailored shirts I had made in Vietnam the month prior. For some reason I was in the flow this glorious Negros Oriental morning, showing up with (as Maria Nemeth likes to say) clarity, focus, ease and grace.
I’m not quite sure why I was enveloped in an amalgamation of peaceful easy feeling. Maybe it was the bowl of organic quinoa I had for dinner the night before. Or possibly my system was overflowing with purified water ensuring I remained hydrated in this steamy tropical climate. Or something else more spiritual, ubiquitous, serendipitous, out of my control was in play.
I left the compound and strolled onto the busy highway and flagged down a trike to transport me to downtown Dumaguete. As is usually the case, the trike was loaded with passengers. There was one seat left on the inside however it was too cramped for this 6’5″ 250 lb. frame. I tried going to the outside seat where I sat behind the trike driver however the space was too tight, uncomfortable, and unsafe.
So, I smiled to everyone and told them I’d wait for the next trike which hopefully was almost empty and had the seat I coveted the most. The one with a nice seat back and facing the front of the trike. “Amping” (take care) I shouted and began to slowly retreat to the curb.
At that moment, a Filipina teenage student dressed in her school uniform gave up her seat for me and moved to the front of the trike. “God bless you, salamat” I said with a showering smile of recognition. She glanced back at me with a shy smile and slowly turned her sights to the outside of the trike heading east into town.
I can’t tell you the serotonin hit I received from this young person as we made our way down the busy streets of this modest size Philippine town they call The City of Gentle People.
As I looked at the other three passengers and trike driver, I could tell they were enveloped by the same feeling I was experiencing. In essence, the young Filipina’s benevolent gesture had a ripple effect on everyone.
As we approached the downtown area and the stop where I would be dropped off, I wanted to show my appreciation for the student. As I exited the trike, I gave the driver my fare as well as the fare for the young student. Again, I showed my gratitude with “God bless and salamat (thank you”) and her eyes and smile lit up like a Christmas tree. So did everyone else watching.
I made this in the moment decision because of three reasons.
One, not all foreigners are looked upon as good people here in this part of the world. They’re demanding, dysfunctional, and downright selfish. So, I wanted to show my heartfelt appreciation for what this young lady did for me.
Two, by showing my appreciation, even in a modest way, perhaps the perception of this student will create a wake to change perceptions of locals towards expats here in the Philippines. She’ll become a conduit and magnet for change.
Last, I wanted to reward the young student for her compassion and respect for another human being. I don’t know about you, however as a society we seem to be starving for feel good old fashioned manners.
Yes, you might be thinking, how can this act of kindness make a sustainable change in perceptions that will stick? I give you the Starfish Story.
An old man walks down to the beach and sees it is covered with tens of thousands of starfish, as far as the eye can see. Far down the beach he sees a young girl who is picking the starfish up, one by one, and tossing them back in the ocean.
Amused, he walks to the girl to speak with her. “Little girl,” the old man says, “What are you doing?”
“I’m saving these starfishes lives,” says the girl. “If I don’t throw them back in the water, they’ll drown. They need the water to live.”
The old man laughs to himself. Näive girl, he thinks. “But you are only one person. There are tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. How can you possibly make a difference?”
The girl bends down, picks up a star fish, looks at it, looks up at the man, tosses it into the surf, then says, “I made a difference for that one.”
Starting today, what small steps can you take to become a conduit and magnet for change?