Opinion Opinion Feature

A selfish generation

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

It’s the kind of quote you see accompanying vague, try-hard artsy pictures or posts on social media—overused, cheesy, and clichéd, maybe, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

I had just finished my day’s work at my OJT in Makati, the downpour was fierce, and I had absentmindedly forgotten to bring my umbrella that day. As luck would have it, I had to walk a few blocks under areas without cover to meet up with my friends, who I was riding home with. With no end to the intense rain in sight—I remember it was falling almost horizontally, it seemed, due to the strength of the wind—I braced myself for a mad dash.

A completely random stranger approached me, however, umbrella in hand, offering to walk me to wherever it was my destination was. I politely refused, but eventually—and with much gratitude—took him up on his offer after his insistence. We then spent the next ten minutes braving the harsh rain with one small umbrella as our shield, and by the time we reached our destination, our backs and feet were soaking wet—but I was a good deal drier than I would have been without the stranger’s help.

The man then had to leave—he was still commuting all the way to Bulacan, a trip he makes everyday. I thanked him again, got his name, shook his hand, and we parted ways.

I’m not entirely sure why this chance encounter affected me so much, but it did. If I had to guess, maybe it’s because in a world filled with negativity and bad news, where our social media feeds are filled with stories or examples of bigotry, vanity, or perversion, and where it’s gotten to the point that we outright expect our fellow Filipinos, who we come across in our daily commute or on the road, to act with selfishness and impatience, this stranger’s act was an anomaly. It was a reminder, to me at least, that random acts of kindness—ones without any agenda or motive—still exist, and can still mean so much.

There wasn’t much I could do to pay the kind man back, but I suppose what I can do is, as Haley Joel Osment would say, pay it forward by reminding anyone who’ll take the time to read this article of the ability and power that we have to do good for others who are in need, even if it’s in the smallest and most simple means.

It’s something that I think is honestly lost on the majority of the Lasallian community, myself included. After all, we’re a community that’s so willing to shell out cash for alcohol, or video games, or concert tickets, but when’s the last time we’ve donated to any cause or charity, or even tipped a hardworking waiter or driver? We’re so willing to share memes and funny videos, but what about poster or pubs calling for donations for victims of the Marawi incident? With all that is happening in our country, do we stop to think about what help we can provide?

It applies to more than just monetary matters. Manila traffic has become so toxic that when driving, we’re often reduced to honking and cursing and cutting other vehicles, even when it isn’t necessary. When riding the bus or the train, we shove and grab open seats when we can, even if often, there are others who need it more. We jaywalk and cut lines. We do these things because it’s what the rest of the country does, and it’s often easier than following the countless rules or signs that everyone else ignores, even if all we’re doing is contributing to the chaos of Metro Manila. 

Even in more personal situations, there are so many opportunities to help someone out. Something as simple as opening your group to that one cross-enrolled student in class who obviously needs groupmates, or even just answering a survey or reserving a class for someone who needs it. Even something like refraining from backstabbing a friend not currently present in the conversation can mean a lot.

And yet, we rarely do these things because there are so many reasons not to. Why give upo your seat for someone who wouldn’t do the same for you? Why donate and get nothing in return? Why answer a survey when the person messaging you is just using you.

Well, because you can. After all, I’m not saying we should go out there and give up everything we have. But, looking at our situations, we often have so much to offer to other people in need. We have the ability to follow rules and laws, even when those around us don’t. Random acts of patience, kindness, and generosity—ones that we do, not so we can post about it on Facebook and get a thousand likes, but borne out of friendship and goodness—are far too rare nowadays.

I fully recognize that the message I’m preaching is incredibly generic, one you’ve probably heard a thousand times before. After all, generosity and kindness are things that have been ingrained in our minds since we were children. TRED and PERSEF classes (whether we listen or not) advocate good values. The phrase ‘Lasallian Achievers for God and Country’ is plastered on our classroom walls.

But knowing that we should be doing these things is different from actually practicing it. I honestly think we’ve become a selfish generation, one that cares too much about validation on social media and too little about helping those in need. That’s not to say that we don’t do our part—we’re also a generation that fights for major social and political issues, and strives for change, and I recognize and applaud us for that. I do believe, however, that the little things, like little gestures of kindness and respect, have also become so lost on us.

But it’s about time we start practicing these values more often in small, concrete ways. Exercise patience and forgiveness when you can. Do a random act of kindness today. And with luck, I can inspire just one person reading this, that should the opportunity arise, they can do good for someone else.


Wilhelm Tan

By Wilhelm Tan

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