Saving Somebody

maryOn a fine Saturday afternoon in New York City, I attended a conference on creativity and social development, which gathered a large crowd of spirited individuals. I met a creative director for a multinational advertising agency, restaurateurs of famous NYC restaurants, and more than a handful of entrepreneurs and hopeful artists. Before leaving the event building, I took a mental picture of a quote that was boldly written across a wide wall in the event venue. It felt like the quote was staring down at every person in the room. The quote was by Lily Tomlin, and it read:

I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”

 Ironically, the quote became more relevant after I left New York City and immersed myself in a completely different environment —the Philippines.

After flying back to my hometown in the Philippines a few weeks after the conference, I landed in the middle of a battleground of a divisive Reproductive Health (RH) Bill debate that has lasted for more than a decade. The incessant fuss over population control thickened the noise pollution in Metro Manila. Prepared with common sense and an informed knowledge of human dignity, I started to ponder what the issue really was and I wondered if the people even knew what they were fighting for. The issue was more than just a stand on ending poverty; it was a call for moral judgment. It was a call to stand up for life.
For some, population growth is an insurmountable roadblock on the way to development. They think that implementing population control programs are an “effective” way to improve living conditions and increase economic wealth. However, these people may have gotten their conclusions all wrong because the road to achieving sustainable development should recognize and embrace a large population. In fact, a large population yields great benefits, including more physically and mentally able workers, a larger market, more innovative ideas, and more young individuals to boost and energize the economy.

People are not the problem; people are the solution. Sadly even the word “population” in this context gets tossed around so much that people have forgotten what the word means. When I think about it, I am part of that “population,” as are my friends, my family, and the intelligent, innovative, and creative individuals I met at the conference. Truly, each person has so much to offer that it would be a waste of the earth’s greatest resource to devalue him or her. If we were to completely ignore the human capacity to work hard, to solve problems creatively, and to passionately affect change, what other being could we trust to set development in motion?

Re-examining that quote in relation to this big population control puzzle, I realized it speaks a lot about the value of each human person as well as our duty to serve and to affect change in society. Acknowledging our worth is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn. Without that perspective, we lose sight of the worth of others.

I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”

By Mary Imbong, a former intern at WYA’s Headquarters in New York and at the WYA Asia Pacific Office