We have all seen it, perhaps partake in the act itself! We have seen many people mindlessly scroll through their social media feeds for entertaining pictures, captivating videos, funny memes, or aspiring quotes. We have seen people pitying their existence, envious of others’ opportunities, or become jealous because they do not have what they want. As our world becomes more technologically connected, it has also become more busy and negative at times. It often makes many people hopeless, joyless, resentful, and even pitiful at times.
Social media, instead of making us more sociable and connected, oftentimes become means that polarize and divide. People tend to come to quick conclusions of the stories, news or information presented, either liking them immediately or take a position of as to dislike what is presented. People answer and express themselves to one another through short posts, tweets, or messages — each confined to themselves behind the screens of their own devices. While it is easy to “measure” and “know” when someone is satisfied or dissatisfied, impersonalized polarization and meaningless conversational exchanges increase by the day because we only know how to treat one another as “echo chambers” of our immediate judgment and quick conclusion. We have increasingly become short-termed stimulated (positively or negatively) with one post after another, to like or to slaughter each other in and through short messages or threads of finger-pointing or self-justified posts. We do not know how to really dialogue with one another as we have lost the art of genuine communication! We are scared, and in many ways, do not know to look at one another into each other’s eyes to get to know each other.
As modern communication becomes more instantaneous, our satisfaction level has also become instantaneous and short-lived. In the postmodern world of instant gratification, we are often expected to give an instant opinion, which often causes us to be caught up in the vicious cycle of instant expressions, opinions, and demands without giving many thoughts into our words and actions. It has become easier for us to move from one short moment of satisfaction to the next moment of dissatisfaction. We have often times become reactive instead of properly responding to matters with respectful, thoughtful, and prayerful dialogue and discourse where true friendships and genuine relationships can be formed. In the midst of all of these things, we cannot take lightly and forget the importance of human decency, kindness, respect, compassion, and the likes in order to focus on the real purpose of relationship and community.
In an instantaneous and disconnected world, we often feel like we do not have what we really wanted. We keep our eyes focused on so many things that are appealing and distract us from our everyday preoccupations. We seem to yearn for those quick moments of distractions or satisfactions that take us from the monotonous, repetitive motions in life. In a very real way, life in our postmodern world has become duller, fixated on escaping the boring now, wanting more, but stuck in the very self-made pities or regrets of what we do not have or the choices we should have made.
Regrets happen when we do not know who we are, hence always afraid of what we are missing out and not able to do. Regrets exist because the fears and anxieties of our insecurities and greed motivate us, making us question whether we are able to get what we have. We spend many of our time worrying about how to be happier and more fulfilled, yet always end up feeling less happy and unfulfilled. This is where the paradoxical reality of “in giving of ourselves that we receive” teaches us much about the real meaning of life and happiness. The more we worry about ourselves and what we want, the more unhappy and unfulfilled we become; yet, when we know who we are and able to give ourselves wholeheartedly, we become more fulfilled, content, at peace on a deeper level.
Over and over again, I have witnessed many beautiful examples of service throughout our mission trip in Guatemala. Even though the country is still relatively poor, especially in the countrysides and rural parts, many people still choose to lovingly care for one another, especially the deep sense of respect for the elderly. I have also seen children taking care of one another, the older ones watch and care for the youngers (even if they are not related). Teenagers willingly take part in the community by giving up their times and talents to make worship more lively and personal. All of those were beautiful; however, there was one example that touched my heart deeply! As I was sitting to pray inside the Parish of Santiago de Atitlan, I saw a little girl and her father wiping down the pews and cleaning the church. She was so enthusiastic and attentive to her works because her father was there with her and giving her a personal example of service.
This is beautiful because there is a personal sense of teaching and handing on the faith by teaching our younger generations the gift of self-giving service. Our younger generations will only be motivated and learn how to serve when we ourselves choose to serve instead of asking to be served or catered according to our likings. In a consumeristic, self-centered, and individualistic world, it is often so easier to make the Church and everyone attentive to our needs instead of being aware of the needs of others. It is easy to become self-absorbed, worried, and pitiful instead of being grateful, selfless, and joyfully giving to others what is personal and intimate from us. Personally speaking, I have seen more happy people who serve than those who only do things in order to benefit themselves. I have seen more people who are content with what they have when they give themselves to others than those who only focus on what they want and get angry when they do not have something. I have seen people who have learned how to handle creative tensions more lovingly and wisely because they have worked with others for greater goods than one who only worries about what is in it for their own goods alone. We learn much about one another, especially dialogue, conversational, problem-solving, and human interaction skills, when we learn to serve and care for the community at large than just what is beneficial for us.
In giving of ourselves, we receive the opportunities to be shaped, formed, challenged, and learn in new creative ways. We learn the essential skills of dialogue and communication, as well as the ability to reconcile and work with one another without having to have things our ways as we like them to be. Service expands our hearts, deepens our love, and helps us to embrace those who are around us as we minister, care, and will their goods in and through the love of God just as He loves us. We learn much about love when we choose to lovingly serve and care for the least of our brethren, the community at large, and those who are around us. When we serve, we choose to care and love even at times we do not feel like doing so or do not have any sentimental desire for the people or situations around us. We serve and give the gift of ourselves not because the other side is deserving or because it is beneficial for us. We serve because it is the personal, intimate, and loving gift of ourselves for others in union with the love of God for us.
St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata reminded us to live fully in loving service today: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Therefore, let us not remain in our own self-pities or self-created frustrations why things are not the ways they should be. Let us not simply ask why is the world still remain cold, disconnected, self-centered, or unfair. Let us begin everything from the ground, where it matters the most, deeply connected and intimately giving from the bottom of our hearts the gift of our very own selves to one another! If we really want the world to change, we have to begin with our very own self-giving gifts of service those who are around us. If we want our society to know that God exists, we have to be His loving presence in words and actions that spring forth from our very relationship with Him who loves us. We can all begin somewhere. We can all serve someone. We can give ourselves wholly and completely in some ways. Therefore, let us give, serve, and share Christ in one another through the loving gift of very selves.