It is still vividly written in my mind. I saw a man holding a cup in his hand one afternoon as I was traversing my path home after a long, tiring day. His eyes were sullen. His skin was marked with bruises. His clothes were tattered. He extended his empty cup at passersby, hoping for some spare change or food. Others would throw dirty looks at him; others would extend a little of what they have in their pockets and throw it in his empty cup. This man was familiar to me. As I passed by him, words escaped from his mouth. “Anak, pangkain lang.” The place was filled with noises from people passing by and the cars were as loud as drums yet I clearly heard his pleading. It resonated the sound of a father sincerely speaking to his son. I looked at him. As my eyes met his, mixed emotions poured from my heart. How long has he been here begging? When was the last time he ate?
Growing up, my mother taught me the values of sharing what I have with the needy. After hearing Mass at the Baclaran Church, I would see kids holding not toys but sampaguita garlands to be sold at a modest price. In my innocent mind, I would look in the eyes of my mother and she would give me a meek smile, which was my go signal. I would get a coin from my pocket and give it to the child. The child would stretch out her thin hands as she welcomed my simple present and I could not forget how her eyes lit up with gratefulness and delight.
In any circumstance that I am in, with whatever kind of people I rub elbows with, I always take a moment to look in their eyes. In those random moments in my ordinary life, I have come to realize that the eyes are indeed a window to the soul. It speaks of words unspoken. It expresses emotions dwelling in the deepest pit of a person’s heart. It communicates what words cannot express. And in that simple deed, it would imprint in me the image of the man begging in the streets, the eyes of my mother as she gave me her sweetest smile, and that kid’s joy when I gave her my coin after mass at Baclaran Church.
The image of St. Vincent de Paul is present in everyone. When we choose to take a different path and look at circumstances with a heart like St. Vincent, a different perspective flows from the heart. St. Vincent, in his simple life, has touched the lives of our forefathers and continues to touch the lives of today’s generation. In his devotion to charity, he selflessly offered what was best for others even when it meant foregoing the matters that were important to him. This is the true essence of seeing people in the eyes of St. Vincent: acknowledging the message of charity as inspired by him. And through that, we would be enabled to extend our hand and offer what is good and beneficial to others.
In the eyes of charity, in the heart of helping, in the image of kindness, St. Vincent de Paul truly forged a remarkable image. Something that is not unique to him alone but something that we can also practice in our daily lives. For the true message of his life is best embraced when we choose to take a step beyond ordinary kindness and walk an extra mile to reinforce the noble values and attitude St. Vincent de Paul has exhibited.
In the days to come, you will surely meet the same people I met in my ordinary life – the hungry man on the streets, my mother’s loving eyes, and a child wandering around selling sampaguita. We all share an ordinary life. But life in itself gets extraordinary through the paths we choose to take. I urge you to follow the footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul.
Alexius is a BS Financial Management student of Adamson University. This piece won 1st place in the recently concluded Vincentian On-the-Spot Essay Writing Contest with the theme “#IamVincent. I Come into this World to Leave a Mark.”