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Two-way individuality

Key Takeaway: Individuality isn’t confined just to how responsibility should start on the personal level. Growing or developing others is also on an individual basis – precisely because we are individuals. Social change should take this very seriously, as not doing so would cause more harm than good.


It’s really about the individual – both ways.

I’ve already ran myself to the ground (or have I?) talking about how everything starts with you, the individual,¬†how it has to be personal and unique.¬†Two weeks ago I spoke about individuality, almost exactly three months ago I spoke about the Gospel according to You, and exactly four months ago I spoke about¬†your advocacy. I cannot over-emphasize this key learning, a key learning that while I’d been dabbling in for a long time now, only last year became cemented into me. That goes to show that it can be taken for granted – and it is.

Last night, we held a despedida (farewell) party for our intern at Habi Footwear, Joy. As a parting gift, she gave each of us a handwritten letter. The one for me brought tears to my eyes as I finished reading it: I was touched not only by her enjoyment with us, but of how I had changed her. I reproduce an excerpt of the letter below:

“…you also made me think about eco-friendly [living] more seriously through your behaviours. Honestly, before, I rarely cared [about] eco-friendly products, but after going back to Korea I think I would be more conscious of [the] environment [now].”

I have some teachers and teacher friends who say that they would be happiest when they see their student/s grow and develop to become successful. This must be the feeling they were talking about, I thought. I had changed someone for the better in the field of what I advocate the most Рof what I am teaching, were I a teacher. And it gave me a sense of joy (pun intended) Рnot a euphoric, cheerful kind of happiness, but a more serene yet meaningful one.

Individuality isn’t just about how¬†we ourselves act as agents of social change – it’s also about how we develop¬†others. True results are best seen and appreciated in individual persons or stories. This is because social development is not a one-size-fits-all system, but has to conform to¬†each¬†person, to stimulate true and full development in each one. This is precisely because of each person’s individuality, because of each of their Life Kits.

Photo copyright 2012 Allister Roy S. Chua

Photo copyright 2012 Allister Roy S. Chua

Three weeks ago, I also witnessed the taping of our feature on TV5’s Happy Wife, Happy Life. After the recording of Habi’s Payatas community mothers weaving, the crew proceeded to interview a single mother,¬†Ate (older sister) Delma, who explained that her weaving had empowered her to enable her son to finish university. And several years ago, in my frequent visits to the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm for work, we always had our participants listen to the story of¬†Ate Maricel, nouveau cheese maker extraordinaire and one of the Farm villagers I observed to have truly grown the most.

People close to me know that I have some very strong opinions about the deplorable – and therefore much improvable – conditions our country is facing as challenges today, most often regarding inefficient transportation and communication systems (it’s apparently an area I feel very strongly about, given my historic love of travel) or the causes and effects of poverty. These strong opinions are mostly on the macro level, talking about society as a whole. But I realized that the solutions if done on just a macro scale (as I always hoped should be done) would possibly create more¬†harm than good: it is essential to trickle it down to the personal level – not just from the servant’s end but also from the side of the one/s he is serving.

Case in point: the controversy a few years ago involving Gawad Kalinga and an Aeta (an indigenous people) community. GK’s social development model did not work out as well as expected there because it would certainly involve a complete change for the individuals living there; GK did not consult the Aetas regarding their way of life, and their plans would have caused some development stagnancy or even regression for the individuals. That is the result of trying to impose a one-size-fits-all social development system – it will simply not work.

Another case in point: I wrote recently about the fine line between upholding your standards and being kind or merciful to others. I witnessed a friend very recently being quite harsh to their¬†kasambahay¬†because the girl was infuriating him by her¬†lack of initiative in her work. Although I had already scolded him about it months ago, I chose to hold my peace this time, and let his elders do the talking (which they did, thankfully, lest I would have burst). Now, forgive me if I sound elitist, but I know that given our more educated (and world-wise, perhaps) positions, it indeed is our duty to teach and grow those who are less so. But true growth will never be achieved if there is no individual understanding or empathy – which I believe is the underlying reason for the existence of university professor’s consultation hours. Development is tailor-fitted and never unkind – because unkindness is the exact opposite of development’s motivation.

Although it’s a truth very hard for me to digest now, it is a truth nonetheless: better fully develop one person for the better than incompletely develop a¬†million. Just as consciousness and service for a reason should start¬†on the personal level, so too should its effects on others. And this is a crucial thought we purposeful livers must always keep in mind in living our higher purposes.

Have a happy weekend!

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