The Cost of Doing Good
One Sunday morning I saw a familiar face attending mass. He smiled when he saw me. With his four kids in tow, he escorted and coached them to bless my hand as a sign of reverence. He used to play basketball in the Youth Center. In his younger years, he was an agile basketball handler with quick moves that could make a basket at will. But he also got himself into trouble during the Summer League. That was many years ago. Now he looked lean and haggard like a man caught in constant struggle with his fate. He drives a taxi and has a family to feed. He has given up playing to answer the needed call of duty.
I was surprise to see him so early. Perhaps he got lucky to get his quota for the week and was there to thank God, I thought. But I was wrong. He actually lost his license and could not drive. The worst detail was that he had no money to redeem it back. His face was painted with disappointment as he narrated the whole incident. Where else could he get the means for their daily sustenance if he could not earn his keep. His elder children will need “baon” for school and his almost one-year-old child will need milk. He and his family lived in a hand-to-mouth existence. No savings. No security. His only hope is that God will continue to give him good health to be able to drive his rented taxi daily.
As I listened, I could sense his growing regret for not having taken advantage of his opportunities when he had the chance. It’s too late now. One cannot turn back the hands of time for opportunities lost. It would cost him several thousands to take back his license, he said. So I offered my help. He was expectantly delighted. He promised to pay back in full. But I know they were just empty promises. I have heard many such promises before. I just could not feel right thinking that his kids will go to bed with empty stomachs. When I handed him the amount he went away like one who has won a lottery. And I was few pesos poorer that day. But deep in my heart I felt the inner joy of having helped a neighbor in need. There is indeed joy in giving. But it costs to be a good Samaritan.
In chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel, he lets Jesus tell the story of the Good Samaritan. No other evangelist relates this story. It shows the universality of Jesus as a messiah for all men and women without distinction. When the Samaritan, in the story, decided to help the hapless man along the road, he knew that doing good would cost him much. First, it would cost him his time. He had to stop to help as he “poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them; lifting him up in order to take him to the nearest inn.” Second, it would cost him his treasure. He had to take out his “silver coins” to pay the innkeeper. He does this because he felt compassion. He went out of his way because he believed in God. This parable continues to stimulate us and challenge us to “go and do likewise.”
In each of us there is a Good Samaritan waiting to be tapped. As man was “created in the image and likeness” of God, each one is capable of doing good from the store of innate goodness that resides in us. There is a Muelmar Magallanes in each of us capable of making the ultimate sacrifice to save many lives from drowning even at the cost of one’s own. There is an Efren Peñaflorida in each of us who used the pushcart classroom to bring education to children of destitute families. There can be a Mother Teresa or an Albert Schweitzer within us if only we are capable of paying the price of doing good. And as always doing good will cost us our time and treasure.
There are one thousand and one ways of spreading goodness around. Some can cost less like giving a sincere smile or encouragement. Others can be more difficult like feeding malnourished children in the parish, sending a poor student to school or giving a scholarship to financially challenged seminarians. But here is the catch: one should do it from the stance of a steward being an instrument of God’s benevolence. This practical charity is, in fact, an act of humility in doing something good unnoticed. Such an act of paying forward has no other reason other than believing that it is God’s will to share and show compassion to the less fortunate. And its only reward is to see heaven open and hear the affirming voice of God saying: “well done good and faithful servant! I am so much pleased with you!”