Since I don’t have a Facebook account (and I’m not always online on my social media accounts), you’d think it’s easy for me to be without my phone. I thought so too. But, I was wrong.
Even though my phone is usually just in my pocket during commutes, I feel a sense of security knowing that I will receive updates and notifications as they come. During long hours of waiting for the train, my phone helps me pass the time—I read ebooks, draft my blog posts, and also read sports news on my phone. Not to mention, being a socially awkward person (which I truly, truly am), my phone sometimes protects me from conversations. My phone is my security blanket in social situations. Well, sort of.
But, travelling to not-so-safe places in Manila where pickpockets abound, I didn’t bring my phone with me yesterday.
On the internet, there’s so much noise about what’s happening in our country, especially in politics. It’s not just the politicians who are making so much noise. There are also people who have opinions on… everything.
There’s also the noise coming from accelerating cars, the horns of the jeepneys, the huge motors of the buses, and the metal-to-metal sound of arriving trains.
But looking at the people around me at the train station, the college students going to school, the commuters riding the jeepney, there was silence. They were not talking to each other. They were just looking at their phones, preparing for their exams, or just staring at whatever they laid their eyes on.
Inside my head too, there was silence. There were no vibrations coming from my phone that I had to attend to. There were no notifications I had to look at. There was nothing—only silence.
Having silence in my inner world, I was able to observe the people around me:
It was early in the morning, but the passengers with me at the jeepney already seemed tired. It seemed to me that they did not have a good night’s sleep.
Some students in the train seemed like they were preparing for an exam. I wanted to tell some of them, “Don’t lose your joy when you finally know what the real world is like. Don’t be disheartened. No matter what the world throws at you, never give up.” (I would know. I lost my joy. I almost lost hope when I finally got disillusioned with the real world. But, that’s for another blog post.)
Everywhere I went, I saw people hurrying to soulless jobs they didn’t seem to love. But, it also seemed to me that they had no other choice. In a third world country like ours, you don’t live to work. You work to live. And not just for yourself, but also for your family. If you don’t work, what would your family eat?
What other choice do we have?
Three hours without my phone opened my eyes to the reality of our world.
Three hours without my phone gave me silence. There is peace in silence. But, it is only in silence that you hear the cries of pain.
There’s the cry of the young professional struggling to make sense of his soulless job and probably trying to patch things up with material things, the so-called travel or experiences, and other Facebook-worthy things to do.
There’s the cry of the sleepless mother who has no other choice but to work for her kids.
There’s the cry of the middle-aged man wondering about his what-ifs. What if I took a chance? What if I made a different choice?
There’s the cry of the working student thinking that one day, everything will pay off.
There’s the cry of the homeless. Honestly, my mind cannot even comprehend what they’re crying for. Maybe a little food today? Maybe someone who’ll talk to them? Maybe they’re waiting for the Lord to come so they no longer have to suffer? Or maybe they’re living one day at a time. I don’t know. That’s how disconnected I am to their pain.
And maybe that’s how disconnected we all are from the realities of this world, from the pains of others.
My phone was supposed to connect me to my families, to my friends, to potential partners, to networks, and to the world.
But, three hours without my phone connected me to other people—to real people.
My phone allows me to share a thumbs up, a smile, and even a heart.
But, three hours without my phone allowed me to share in the pain of others.
My phone was supposed to allow me to express how I am feeling.
But, three hours without my phone allowed me to feel again. It took away some of the numbness in my heart. It took away some of my indifference towards other people and their needs. It took away the noise so I can hear other people’s cries in silence.
I wish I could end this blog post saying that I stopped and fed the hungry, comforted those who were in pain, or at least gave a blanket to the homeless.
No. I also had to hurry to work. It was business as usual. Like it always have been. And it wasn't just me.
But, I know that was not the end of the story. This story is not yet over. The story is not yet complete.
And it is you and I who are going to continue this story.
In the coming days, my fiancée and I are launching something that will allow us to give more of our time and resources to those in need. This will continue my (our) part of the story.
But, you also have a part in this story. You also have a role to play. And I’d love to hear how you’ll continue this story.
It’s up to us to complete it.
How shall we complete it?
Let’s journey together.