Shrink No More

Imagine yourself shrinking small?

If we were to change the law of science and biology and become small instead of becoming big, how different would life be like?

For Gilbert Flores, that phenomenon is not unfamiliar to him. For a greater part of his life, he always felt small and insignificant. While kids his age had toys to play with, Gilbert knew nothing but the harsh city streets. While kids went to school and learned from books, he was unschooled and learned about life the hard way. While young children had parents to care for them, he was left to fend for himself.

So he knew what being small and insignificant felt like.  Because for Gilbert, who knocked on windows for a penny, every unnoticing motorist made him small. For Gilbert ,who sold fruits on the street, every refusal made him insignificant. For Gilbert, who just wanted nothing more but scraps of food, every rumbling of the tummy made him little.

We all have come across Gilberts in our lives. These Gilberts we care not, and think not and respect not. It is no wonder that these Gilberts would grow up jaded and disillusioned in life. Save perhaps this one Gilbert that I know. And I shall tell you two touching stories about this very special Gilbert I have come to know and admire.

Just two months ago, my Gilbert knocked on our front gate. Back then I did not know him. But he asked to speak with my brother Byron. This shy 16-year-old, as I have come to know later on, told my brother about his most pressing problem. He was in need of money to buy materials for his project. Without submitting this project, he said, he will not be able to pass the semester. He and my brother conversed for awhile. It was then when we came to know that he was a scholar at the Southwestern University, a university in Cebu City, that he was a third-year high school student, and that he tutors Math and Science for income. Through snippets of his answers to our unending questions, we were able to glean that he did not have such a lucky life as me and my brother did. True enough, he used to sell fruits and knock on windows on the streets.

So we invited him for dinner. We were telling Gilbert how he should continue his studies and never lose hope. It was then when my cousin, suddenly blurted out: “It was you! It was you! Now you’ve grown!”  My cousin then recounted an event that happened approximately seven years ago. My cousin and I were buying pastries from Leona’s. On our way to the car, we heard the guard angrily shouting at a street kid to go away. The guard later on told us that the kid was trying to buy the cheapest bread but he was short of one peso. Because we were in a hurry, and rather in shock of what just occurred in front of us, we were not able to offer the kid a measly peso.

And when I looked at Gilbert he looked up. Gilbert nodded and shot the most sincere smile, a smile that hid no anger or resentment. I sat there on my seat, shocked and not knowing what to say. My tears did all the talking.

People around Gilbert might have acted in such a way to threaten his dignity, to make him feel small and unimportant. But Gilbert did not allow it. Gilbert never allowed all the things that happened in his life make his spirit small and insignificant. If there was anything I learned, it was the strength of the human spirit to withstand adversity. Here was this kid who had all the reasons to end his sufferings. But he never gave up in his life. How often do we want to quit when even the simplest problems come our way? How often do we want to cry when things do come out as what we had planned? How often do we allow our spirits to weaken when we are but tired?

Here was Gilbert, a shining example of the spirit of the human person. A spirit that does not shrink and die out in the face of adversity but a spirit that grows, becomes big and soars.

Now imagine yourselves becoming, becoming big.

Chappy Piramide (WYA Member since 2006) is from Cebu City, Philippines.