Whenever I am down, I tend to focus on the problem – what I don’t have which I’ve long been praying to have – to the point of dwelling on the lack until it becomes sinful enough by wallowing in self-pity and forgetting all the blessings I’ve been so generously bestowed with. I tend to forget the positives, clouded my vision is with the things that I perceive to be missing and of utmost necessity in my life. This is the reason why I am typing this right now and the reason why I’ve been compiling scrapbooks of little things that will remind me of God’s generosity (and consequently my own ingratitude) whenever I am beset by those odd, uncomfortable feelings once again.
If I didn’t sit down and review the past, I would have forgotten the following miracles I have been favored with. First, it’s no secret how little my pay is in my current job – a far cry from what I have gotten used to. My job is also not the greatest job I’ve ever dreamed of, but perhaps it is already a miracle that I have a job at all in these uncertain times and that I am getting by at all.
Certain little events, however, have come by that would have been otherwise impossible, given my more or less fixed pay at work. And which is why I call them little miracles. The first involves how I was able to acquire my laptop, which cost me almost Php40,000 at the time. I needed the laptop to be able to work from home, a novel, irresistible arrangement which my company offered. God knows I wouldn’t be able to afford it even if I saved regularly and scrimped on everything. But lo and behold, a friend in need suddenly told me he could no longer pay in instalment this newly acquired laptop that he got from his office. He offered an arrangement that I would be crazy to turn down: 20 instalments for the abovementioned figure. I can’t recall how I was able to pay him back in only about four or five instalments. Unbelievable, but it's true.
Then came this time when I was invited to attend this seminar that I knew I badly needed called the Landmark Forum. The two-day affair would set me back by Php25,000. I knew everyone in my family would be scandalized to learn about it, so I kept it a big secret. What do you know – someone who owed me something for a writing/editing job I had done in the past, which I had completely forgotten, suddenly called me up, saying frantically that his editor resigned and he needed my help badly. Wow, that meant a lump sum of Php20,000 due to his debt, which accumulated because he kept on delaying to pay me for the little and big things I did for him until I gave up working for him. I didn’t realize I had that amount from him and he would have a change of heart and pay up; worse, due to the long delay, I gave up my expectation until I forgot all about it.
The third is about how I acquired a digital camera, which I’d long been wanting to have, to replace my antiquated analog device. A friend and former classmate in California learned that I edit papers on the side when I was not writing on the side, both of which I do rarely (and only for selected friends), and she needed my help in writing several term papers. As pay, she gave me not just a modest amount but also a nice Sony digicam. I had been dreaming of a Kindle at least or an iPad -- or even an iPod would do, but a digicam (with video capability too) wasn’t so bad.
The fourth was how I acquired several pair of shoes that I didn’t buy -– they were all given to me. The only pair I bought for myself was this Nike rubber shoes that are now worn out. I was able to buy it when I retired from the former company I worked for. I knew I needed a new one, but kept on withholding, knowing how much shoes cost. But I was not just given two but four, and I was not even fervently praying for one. The first one was a classic Converse Chuck Taylor on sale, which was quite affordable, though I would still be thankful having it for free because it costs Php1,000. The rest were all branded shoes (Adidas, Puma, Perry Ellis), whose designs I actually preferred if only I was capable of buying them with my budget. The Adidas came from my brother in exchange for a pair of Nikes which another old friend who needed help with her masteral papers gave me as some form of payment. If it’s fun to have shoes that I didn’t technically pay or work for, it's even more fun and surprising to have gotten a pair for free, which the fourth pair was all about: I won it over a guessing game online with my former high school classmates. Who knew something like that could happen? It's crazy!
The other miracle that I shouldn’t forget writing down is not about me, for a change. In one of those rare moments that I was really possessed, or held in thrall, by the Holy Spirit, I remember praying fervently for this parish whose Sunday services I regularly took benefit from. Seeing how ugly the church building was, how the choir croaked like a bunch of frogs that needed more practice, how the priest sounded uninspired, and how the parishioners lacked that vigor that only a charismatic spirituality could give, I don’t know what came over me, but I was overcome by a kind of pity that I knew never existed in my heart. I pleaded to God to please renew his church and his church people in this little growing community.
About ten years after or so, lo and behold, I am witnessing a newly constructed church that had a grandness befitting God, a choir that sang in harmoniously blending voices, a group of priests that sounded like the first apostles, and a parishioner that has been conquered by the Singles and Couples for Christ communities. I do not want to presume it was all caused by my prayer, but I feel like a prayer like that from a disinterested person (disinterested because I don’t really consider myself belonging to the parish, being a transient here, just a Sunday mass-goer and all) sounded especially sweet to God.
The last bit is a miracle that I somewhat resent because, unlike the preceding, I didn’t benefit from the answered prayer; other people did. In two of my past major jobs (I had little temp jobs in between), I often walked to my workplace with sadness seeing the ever-depressing urban decay all around: beggars, trash, disorderliness, and the squatters in the Magallanes area, the horrific overcrowding, high crime rate, and horrendous traffic in Pasay Rotunda, and the boring and depressingly ugly intersection of Buendia (now Gil Puyat) cor. Pasong Tamo (now Chino Roces). In my weak moments, I would feel so helpless and be reduced to my usual self-pitying self. But sometimes, I was gripped with hope in the Holy Spirit, which I realized, I should learn more and more to be my default spiritual posture. I am a very slow learner, see, spiritually speaking; until now, I consider myself a growing boy in the spiritual eyes of God the father, still having too many basic things to learn, but in that moment, I prayed. And those prayers I now consider miraculous themselves because, looking back, I had nothing in me (at least the old me or the fallen side of me) that would ever want to say those prayers. And those prayers were somewhat like this: “Lord, I pray for urban renewal. I pray that this place be transformed right now, in your mighty name, oh, Jesus!”
I had forgotten those special (because rare) requests to God, until one day I happened to set foot once again on the same paths that I took despondently. Those exact places I prayed for are now transformed as though they joined this TV show that awarded certain people and places a general makeover. The transformation of the corner of Magallanes area where a skeleton of a high-rise stood for what felt like centuries is now beyond my wildest dream. All I prayed for was for it to be cleaned of things that displeased my delicate eyes. Pasay Rotunda remains in need of a total makeover, but it is now a far cry to what I had witnessed. I figure God listens to prayers not just for people but also for entire places, even for countries and the whole world. (St. Therese of Liseaux, I would learn later, would often pray generously like this, willingly offering all her sufferings, especially for missionaries and souls in purgatory. My prayers are still a far cry from that, but I’m trying.)
I still have a lot of crazy requests on my prayer list, but these lessons are more than enough for me. If I take a look on my life hard enough, little and big miracles do happen, and they do happen often, especially when God likes the prayer, which is invariably one that's naively trusting, or one that's quite daring in asking the impossible, or one that is totally unselfish.