Today is Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Giving and Receiving

by: J. Pampio A. Abarintos

I am foremost a jurist and writing is the primary means for me to convey my dissections, analyses, interpretations, and applications of the law to the myriad of cases of which I am responsible for. Therefore, I write — reams and reams of written and rewritten pages.

When I have to write about the concept of “giving and receiving”, I find doing so rather difficult. Although “giving and receiving” is such an ordinary, everyday, everywhere phenomenon, there are no past decrees, no past decisions, no Philippine laws on this matter. It stumps me for I have to go back to what we were before we became jurists.

“Miel, share.”

A lot of psychologists believe that “giving and receiving” is innate to children. We, ourselves, have delightfully witnessed incidents wherein children, ours or of others, willingly gave to those who have less. We vocally encourage this instinct, and yet, some kind of trepidation always subdues this excitement within us. We fear. We fear that kind children will be taken advantage of. We fear that kind persons will not receive anything in return. We fear that the money we gave will just go to gambling or to the syndicates. We fear that if we give to one, the rest will home in to our cars and demand the same amount. We fear that if we give to this foundation, the managers will just use our funds for their personal benefits. We fear to get involved. We fear that our generosity will be misconstrued as propaganda.

And so we imbibe our grown-ups’ fears and grow up fearful of generosity. And, even, suspicious of generous people. Yet, that which is innate, ultimately surfaces and demands satisfaction. So, we give according to our fears. We give in church. We give to the solitary beggar. We give our leftovers to that filthy child. We give to “safe” foundations. We give to be written on the souvenir program. We give to receive something in return.

“Who is my neighbor?”

Through the millennia, there have been no shortage of generous people who have shown us how it was to give one’s all without expecting anything in return. The greatest of them all did not write a single word about himself and yet his life has generated the most books, the most stories, the most art works, the most films. He explained charity in the simplest of terms with the profoundest of meanings.

He said, “Love thy neighbor.” Then to ensure that there will be no misunderstanding whatsoever to what he meant, the story went on to the lawyer who asked, “Teacher, who is my neighbor?” And He answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Were the Jewish priest and Levite heartless fiends who think nothing of stepping over a dying person? They were probably just fearful. Fearful that the robbers might come back, fearful that the victim was just faking and will take advantage of them, or simply fearful that they may be late for their priestly and juridical duties. Fearful to get involved.

Then a Samaritan passed by and despite the fact that the victim is a Jew, he took mercy on him.

And Jesus sufficiently answered the question of the lawyer.

“The one who had mercy on him.”

It does not need an expert of the law to get Jesus’ message. But it was an expert of the law who had the knowledge, skills and the guts to engage Jesus in a discussion of such a sensitive nature. In his attempt to test Jesus, he was the one who ended up tested. Just as we all are tested time and again with the neighbors; we meet in our homes, in the streets, in our offices, and in our courts. Do we let our fear get in the way of giving?

Do not fear.

The Samaritan was probably well-to-do. He probably thought about the repercussions of what he did: the Jews will suspect him of beating up their fellow Jew or his fellow Samaritans will condemn him for aiding and abetting the enemy. Either way, it was a dangerous position. But he did not fear.

True, our fears may be founded, rational, and based on experience. But we know that if we live life based on our fears then we are not living at all. There are rational reasons for not driving, for not going out, for not playing sports, for not loving another, for not having children. And yet we do these things all the time regardless of our fears.

“Go and do likewise.”

To give is not to fear. We can start small to overcome our phobia. Give to the househelp, give to the workers, give to the child on the street, give to foundations and institutions who help the needy.

But here, we just give of our extras.

We are jurists. We are experts in the law. We must go beyond that of giving our extras and give what our neighbors deserve from us as experts in the law. We give of our eyes when we look at the injustices the victims are burdened with. We give of our ears when we listen to the cries of those whom others refuse to hear. We give of our voices when we speak out for those who have none. We give of our hands when we write to correct the root causes of these unjust conditions. And we give of our lives when we stand up for the truth against the lies that attack it.

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