(Taken by Orli Javier during one of our trips to the squatters of Taguig, Philippines)
I can’t smile. I never really got used to smiling. I wish I could though. I wish I could smile a genuine smile – not my current one that looks like I have a stick up my butt.
I was looking through photos of mine, particularly the ones related to the communities where we have social development projects. I was quite surprised to find so many smiling pictures. It’s possible that Filipinos are just some of the happiest people on the planet, but it’s probably more than that.
This picture on the left is one of my favorites. Not so much for the technical image quality, but for the story it tells:
A half-naked father, poorer than poor, but with a content smile as he looks at his daughter.
I thought to myself, “To be able to smile though having nothing, that is a luxury money can’t purchase.”
Then I realized I was wrong.
The father had something – his daughter. And she was the source of his joy. So I corrected myself, “To have something, even one thing, that fulfills you, that is the greatest luxury.”
Luxury can be defined as an activity that gives great pleasure, especially one rarely indulged in. Fulfillment and contentment are indeed luxuries, at least to me they are. They’ve been rare lately. Satisfaction does not come as easy as when I was a child. My joys seem fewer, and many short-lived. Every victory and achievement must be followed by something greater, and must be achieved even faster. How many times have I traded away something that actually fulfills me?
But I’m learning. Actually, I’m re-learning. And relearning is really more about reminding yourself more than discovering something new.
I’m a forgetful guy. So I made a short list to remind myself:
1. Find a reason to be grateful for everything in anything.
2. Enjoy things for what they are, not for what they could be.
3. Fall into God’s hands, not just His plan.
4. Remember the “who” is more valuable than the “what”, “where”, and “when”.
5. Remember the reasons why.
Oh, and remember to smile…
When I was a kid, I used to visit my father’s factory, and, with our faithful man, Pilo aka “Luca Brazi”, explore and inspect everything like the little prince of the building. When I was older, around high school and college age, I interned in another of his companies, where I learned the term COO or child of the owner. There are a lot of perks with being the SOB (son of the boss), but with them come expectations – expectations anyone really honest with himself knows he can never meet. Now that I’ve officially re-entered the business world, I haven’t been able to escape the thought of having to fill my father’s shoes. But recently I had a realization. A realization that has removed this false burden. Here it is:
Dead men are buried with their shoes on.
Dead men, even great men, are buried with their shoes.
They don’t leave them behind.
What they do leave behind are footprints. Their footprints show us where they walked, where they ran, they show us how far they went, where they tripped and fell, they show us where they stood.
I can’t fill my father’s shoes. They’re not mine to fill. If I tried I’d fail twice: I’d fail to fill his shoes and fail to fill the one I’m suppose to – my own.
What I can do is walk on his prints, to make clearer the path for a following generation, and to create a new set of prints that are mine.
When the workdays turn into work-nights, and when the pressures of responsibility threaten the peace of my heart, I look out the window of my 25th floor office at a building across the street. This building, Strata 100, is probably the oldest along Emerald. It is also the place where my parents first met. A little more than two decades ago, my mother, who worked for a bank down the street, walked over to handle the account of my father’s company. My father saw her for the first time, and after she had left, he announced that she was the woman he was going to marry. And he did. The rest, as they say, is history.