Recycling and reusing the things we no longer need helps save our landscape. So, I did something I’ve never done this week and met some fascinating people in the process. One was a family of three who taught me the meaning of sacrifice, hard work and strong leadership.
Salvador Cariaga is a missionary to the Philippines. Actually, he is a missionary to the United States from the Philippines. Advocating for the homeless takes much of his time here in the States but connecting the needs of people in the Philippines with the abundance of people in this country warms my heart on many levels.
After a month of gathering old cell phones, flat screen televisions, computer monitors, wireless microphone systems, gardening tools, educational supplies, library books and medical supplies, we rented a truck and loaded up for a 3-hour drive to the warehouse containing enough recycled items to load an 18-wheeler. My wife and one of our church leaders were kind enough to make our trip enjoyable and the work go faster once we arrived.
About 24 other people from all over the State gathered to pack and repack boxes, assemble the items on pallets and wrap the newly assembled cubes for stacking in the container that would take them all the way to the Philippines. Making a stack of shovels and rakes fit on a pallet with a wheelchair and several boxes of books took skills. The result was amazing.
My amazement was piqued by two sets of helpers who gathered with ministers, church leaders and some of the homeless from a congregation three hours away from us in a different direction. One was a medical doctor who showed up to help, worked quietly moving some of the largest items and left before lunch without saying a word. Simple, humble, quiet service from someone who can heal bodies as well as move large recycled items inspired all of us who gathered to work.
The most inspirational act of the day for me went to one of the youngest who gathered with his brother and his mother to help. He brought his own violin to donate to some child in the Philippines who, according to Salvador, has probably never even seen a violin. He and his family worked until the trailer was loaded and were the last helpers to leave.
Why did he come? Because his mother had a heart for service and was willing to exercise the leadership to bring her boys to learn some important lessons. They learned how to pack boxes, load pallets and even pack a storage container. They learned how to work respectfully alongside someone who doesn’t even have a house he can call his own. They learned how to relate to older people and church leaders who exemplify service like this every day of their lives. But they also learned that while some service isn’t easy, it is necessary if the goal is to be accomplished. They fought weariness, the constant need to hear instructions about how to do things better and even boredom. They stayed the course because their mother was strong enough to lead, be an example and encourage them to keep on working even when others left the scene.
I am blessed to have witnessed all these things. I am amazed that things we might otherwise throw away can be welcomed in another part of the world as a valuable tool. But most of all, I’m inspired that one mother can lead two boys to do amazing things that help themselves and people they don’t even know—from here and across the ocean—at the same time.