In the world we live in today, excellence is considered to be the quintessential aspect of an individual and it can be found in a number of things such as our occupation, grades, income, appearance and so many more. In a way, we were able to achieve these aspects of excellence since we had the freedom to do so. It is not uncommon for someone when given the opportunity would strive as much as possible to achieve whatever it is they aspire for.
I, myself was given a lot of opportunities to achieve certain goals or aspirations such as studying in a prestigious university, being capable of buying items or services that would be considered as luxuries or even just being able to decide if I was in the mood to eat anything tasty. I am aware of these opportunities, I am given the freedom to decide my future and to achieve whatever it is that I want to be. There are times when I seem to be unconscious of these and it has even led to me to consider if my dependency on this freedom has left me insensitive and apathetic to other people.
Within my country, there is a large number of those who reside within the marginalized and disenfranchised sectors of society. Even at an early age, we were always made aware that there are those who can barely survive under the harsh conditions of poverty in the country but this was always told in a manner that never really showed the true extent of indignity that many had to go through. I think it was in my eleventh year of high school when I was shown a clear picture of the poverty that seeped across my country. We were invited to speak to some of the elderly in urban poor areas and so with a partner I entered a barely standing shanty that housed a family of eight. It horrified me to see that this large group was forced to reside in a structure that was barely any bigger than my living room — quite quickly a streak of guilt and shame flushed through me since I had no right to judge these people. The grandmother of the home told us her story of leaving the province to go to the city in order to earn more money but instead were met with the same hardships they had faced in the province. She was thankful for the help that my university had extended to her family but was quite resigned to the fact that she would die poor and unfortunately her grandchildren will have the same realization.
I left that day with a resounding feeling in my gut that this shouldn’t be happening. People shouldn’t be accepting these circumstances like this is the only opportunity they had. Where was their freedom to decide? But the thing is, they didn’t have the resources in order to recognise their dignity and freedom to decide and that hurt even more. I recalled this memory since a line from a reading had a great impact on me: “Freedom, for St. Thomas, is a means to human excellence, to human happiness, to the fulfilment of human destiny.”
If I am allowed to utilize this freedom as a means of attaining happiness and fulfilment then maybe it is time as well for me to use this freedom of mine to allow others to have the same amount of opportunities that I had. In small but meaningful ways, we are capable of helping our fellow human being to receive opportunities and use their own freedom to decide what they want to do and how they will do this. In the context of the country, I feel that it is with education that my countrymen will have the means and freedom to earn better opportunities for income and stability but this can only be achieved if they are allowed to pursue their education. I hope to achieve this feat of being able to help my countrymen receive the education that they deserve and that this may inspire others to see the same freedom that I see for those who aren’t able to grasp it yet.
Published: May 17, 2021
This piece is written by Kym Cristobal, intern alumni of World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific. Interested in applying for the Asia Pacific regional internship? Visit bit.ly/wyaaponlineinternship