I’ve traveled to the Philippines with my parents and sister twice in my lifetime. During our first visit, I was eight years old and met many of my wonderful relatives for the first time. At this young age, I also came face to face with the reality that many people around the world live in extremely poor conditions and experienced one of my most vivid childhood memories. We were stuck in the sweltering traffic of the Philippines and I looked outside the car window. I saw starving people young and old begging for food and money; a little boy was eating paper on the side of the road.
When we returned to the Philippines during my last year of high school, I learned an unexpected lesson from my dad during a shopping trip to one of the expansive mega malls. At some point, we split off from my mom and sister to head toward the food court. In the area between the restaurants, ragged street vendors begged passerby to spare some change to buy small trinkets and snacks.
Among the street vendors was a little girl who couldn’t have been older than ten years old. Atop her shoulder, she carried a long stick with a dozen or so bags of peanuts to sell. It was a weekday, so she likely had to forego school to help her family make ends meet. When I saw this poor little girl, my natural instinct was to walk right past her and try to not feel so sad.
That’s when my dad took an unexpected action. He struck up a conversation with the little girl and asked about her age, family, and life. Then he asked her how much the peanuts cost. He sifted through his wallet and paid her enough money to purchase all of the peanuts on her pack. Joyfully bewildered, the girl started to hand us all of her goods as my dad kindly declined them. I stood there surprised and amazed, watching what he did next. He walked over to the fried chicken stand and ordered a bucket or so of chicken with a side of rice. My dad gave the bags of food to the little girl, patted her on the shoulder, and told her to go home early with a hot meal for her family.
I don’t remember if she had tears in her eyes, but I shed a few as I write this. I don’t remember what I said to my dad after, or if I ever said anything at all. I will always remember the volumes of meaning that this moment speaks about my dad.
Today is my dad’s birthday. When it comes to my parents, no gift is ever enough to thank them for all they’ve done for me, both in providing me with a comfortable life and especially for all the values they’ve instilled in me.
Happy Birthday, Dad. Thank you for teaching me to always make genuine connections with everyone we meet, be generous with blessings, and try our best to make someone’s day — especially those in need. I love you.
Dining at Tiffany’s
PS: Happy Father’s Day, too!