May 22, 2011

"No, It's Okay!"

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" Matthew 7:9

I don't like discussing money.

During our stay in Pagudpud, several of the student missionaries decided to help some members of the AY go back to college. I too planned to help two of my friends return to their studies, which had been halted due to finances. However, before they could be enrolled, both girls had to complete some forms and requirements. This led to several long and costly bus rides to Laoag where the school was located.

One day I decided it would probably be wise for me to check out their school. By this point Kristel had been cleared to return, but Carina had still not been completely accepted. So the three of us caught an early bus to Laoag with the intent of a tour and an attempt at setting Carina's readmittance in stone.

The Girls' College

And so began my frustrating experience with the college. For various absence and beaurocratic-related reasons, we were required to make that trip four times. Each bus ride ate up two hours and 60 pesos per person, one way. Round trip cost about $3 each, which may not sound like much for America, but for the Philippines it was a decent expense. Of course there was no way I was going to force this expense on the very girls I was hoping to help. But I met an issue.

The week before our first trip, I was checking in with Carina.
"So it's okay if we go Tuesday? Oh and don't worry about the bus fare."
"Katelyn, I can pay for it."
"No, it's okay, I got it."
"No, it's okay, it's okay!"
"I guess we'll cross this bridge when we get to it."

On Tuesday, when the man came to collect our bus money, I quickly jumped to my wallet before my friend could stop me. She didn't say anything and she made no move to stop me, but I could feel a tension in the air.

When we got off the bus, we hailed a trike and told the driver where we wanted to go. After a quick ride, we arrived at the school. I stepped out and looked around at the campus. "Manu, manong?" I heard behind me. "24." I turned and opened my wallet to pay the 24 pesos, but my eyes caught Carina swiftly slip the man some money. I smiled to myself, and we walked inside.

The same thing happened again for lunch. Before I could pay for the pansit, my two friends had already covered it. "Come on!" I laughed, still feeling that awkward sensation that always seems to accompany matters of money. I really wished they would just let me pay for things and leave it at that.

Over the next several trips, Carina kept slipping in whenever she could to pay the numerous little expenses. At first I kept trying to argue with her. Still, each time I thanked her.

"Thanks for covering the trike." We were loading back onto the bus to go back to Pagudpud. Carina was in front of me and said with a laugh, "That was the last of my allowance."

Carina and Kristel
"Wow. Thank you!" I said again. I sat down in my seat, floored.

She spent all her money for these trips, for our transportation and food. She'd paid for me. What kind of a sponsor was I?

I felt awed with her consideration while at the same time slightly upset at her for not letting me take care of things. But on that ride back, a thought started forming in my mind until I was hit with a realization.

Had I seriously been so insensitive?

No one likes to feel helpless, like you have nothing to contribute. Part of the maturation process involves taking care and reponsibility of oneself. To be able to provide for oneself and not be dependant on others is something most people strive for. To take that away isn't an act of bruising an ego--it's dehumanizing. And this whole time I'd been attempting just that, trying to convince someone to relinquish her own self-sufficiency. I'd been trying to give her something of mine while taking away something of hers which was much more valuable. What sort of aspiring psychologist was I?!

I had to go into Laoag one final time with just Carina and I. This time I kept my eye out better, waiting for cues. When she wanted to pay, I let my friend pay, and when she couldn't, she let me.

And when it was all said and done, I thanked her sincerely for her sacrifice, humbled with a lesson learned.

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