Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bears for Bicol

It is amazing how one person can make a difference when she really wants to. I have witnessed my friend and once a colleague, Cathy Babao-Guballa, do this so many times. A mother of 2, prolific writer, grief counselor, and budding diplomat, she has built hospital play centers for children with long-term illnesses that require them to stay in the government hospitals for long periods of time. She has filled the centers with books, toys, VHS kiddie movies, solicited from people in Manila and abroad--all very willing to help out, with a box or two of toys. She has also spearheaded the renovation the Philippine General Hospital Pediatric Ward, bagging a sponsor to back her efforts. I was awed with how she woke up the desire to give in all of us, and how easy it was to make a difference.

She is once again at it, with her 1000 Bears for Bicol project. True to form, Cathy reflects the power of ONE person making a difference, exemplifying the best each one of us can be. She rallied one and all to donate teddy bears to donate to the children displaced by the typhoon. And bears poured in, in trickles at first, and then by the boxes--from local folks and again abroad. Pledges were made by Bears Without Borders and Teddy Bear Power--organizations that believe in the healing power of teddy bears. Donations were matched by the local food outlets, plane delivery of the bear boxes were taken care of Bicol government officials and Philippine Airlines.

"Those among you who will be truly happy are the ones who have sought and found how to serve." --Albert Schweitzer

In my favorite book, Stone Soup for the World by Marianne Larned, many stories of everyday heroes taking up their causes and calls were essayed. There was a young boy who convinced his city to donate leftover cafeteria food to the hungry instead of throwing it away. He had founded the USA Harvest based in Florida. There were people who volunteered adults how to read, others taught dance or music or math. There is Sidewalk Sam, who shares his art talent with his fantastic drawings in chalk on the sidewalks for everyone to partake of. There are corporations like Target that hire mentally challenged employees. Paul Newman's Newman Own, pledges 100% of his profits back to the community.

I would like to believe that slowly, the scales of consciousness are tipping. . .

What if you taught women in your community how to crochet, or how to sew? What if you taught them how to make bread? What if you organized a garage sale and donated the proceeds to fix up a classroom that needs new light or fans? What if your really went carless one day per week, not because you are coded, but because you would like to spare the air? What if, instead of the daily Starbucks latte, you sent a child to school?

I am compelled to piggy-back on Cathy's cause--because it is worthy and because it is so easy, how can I not exert such a small effort? Many people are slow to action because they think someone else will do it anyway, or maybe they deem their contribution to be so small. I will round up a few bears from here and send it to Manila. I have spied Santa Bears on close-out. (Puwede kaya yon?) And I am still collecting old children's books and toys to be sent to bare elementary school libraries in the Philippines. I can send some of those too.

Check out Cathy's blog at Midlife Mysteries and hope you can send her a bear or two.

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