This is my favorite picture of the trip so far (and probably won’t lose that distinction).
It is not a great picture of me. I am unshaven and unshowered. It is a selfie in bad light. And I have a goofy smile.
What is important about the picture is the person with me.
We spent the last two days of the trip in the same barangay (village). At the beginning of the second day I asked everyone in my group to pair up so they could work together.
The entire group was women except for one man, who I’ll call “Roger”. It was the same in most of the places we visited. The women and children came to learn the technique while the men were rebuilding the family homes.
Everyone was able to find a partner quickly except Roger.
It wasn’t that nobody wanted to work with him, but he was very hesitant to work with anyone else. Every time someone asked if he wanted to pair with them he just shook his head and looked down.
One of the women who was a leader in the group grabbed me by the arm and pulled me over to him.
She said, “He lost his wife and one of his kids in the storm. He needs the most help. You will work with him.”
This was not a request, it was an order!
I sat down with him and asked if he spoke English. He sheepishly replied, “No”.
And that’s when Olive arrived.
She didn’t ask if she could help. She just joined us.
She said, “I don’t speak much English, but I am going to help.”
For the next 75 minutes we worked together. Roger told his story. In heartbreaking detail he went through the day of the storm and all of his loss. (I will spare you the details.)
He talked about his intense loneliness at home, especially at night. How the things in his home remind him again and again of his lost wife.
Olive was an angel.
She translated. She listened. She caressed his face. She held his hand. She encouraged him.
When she was done working with him she then told me in broken English what she had shared. She gave amazing insight.
As the time passed you could see the sadness lift from Roger. Ever so slowly. Little by little.
He even laughed!
In this part of the Philippines everyone has suffered loss. Everyone saw dreadful sights. Everyone still has nightmares.
Even with all of the pain, everywhere we went, the Filipino people knew who around them had suffered the most. They were willing to put their own pain aside for those in the most pain.
Everyone who was there knew Roger had suffered the most. It didn’t matter if they received help.
It mattered that Roger did.
After we worked with Roger, Olive said, “I don’t know him, but I knew his wife. I know how sad and lonely he is. It is so good you worked with him. He needed it most.”
Olive had no clue how much she helped. In fact, she had no idea that she had helped at all.
She just did what was natural.
And somehow I ended up getting credit.