Letters to Juliet versus Dead Stars


Letters to Juliet

Letters to Juliet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few days ago, I watched “Letters to Juliet“. Sophie, a fact checker for The New Yorker, is engaged to be married. She and her fiance go on a ‘pre-honeymoon’ to Italy. During one of her walks in the city of Verona, she stumbles upon Juliet’s balcony. Turns out, there’s a tradition in Verona wherein women from all over the world go there and post their letters to Juliet. These letters mostly deal with heartache, and the women ask Juliet for her advice. At the end of the day, a ‘secretary of Juliet’ comes to collect the letters. The Secretaries of Juliet is an organization of women whose job is to read the letters and send an answer back to the women who’ve written to Juliet. Well, Sophie follows this secretary and she ends up becoming a sort of ‘honorary’ secretary of Juliet. One day, while helping one of the secretaries collect the letters, she discovers a letter, written fifty years ago, hidden in the wall.

“I didn’t go to him Juliet. I didn’t go to Lorenzo. His eyes were so full of trust. I promised I’d meet him to run away together because my parents don’t approve but instead I left him waiting for me below our tree, waiting and wondering where I was. I’m in Verona now. I return to London in the morning and I’m so afraid.

Please Juliet, tell me what I should do. My heart is breaking and I have no one else to turn to.

Love, Claire

The letter was written by Claire, an Englishwoman, who lives in London. Fifty years ago, she came to Italy to study. There, she met Lorenzo, a simple local boy who picked grapes at a vineyard. They fell in love with each other, and planned to elope, but Claire got cold-feet and left him. She went back home to London where she married somebody else.

Sophie answered the letter:

“‘What’ and ‘if’ two words as nonthreatening as words come. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: ‘What if?’…

I don’t know how your story ended. But I know that if what you felt then was love – true love – then it’s never too late. If it was true then why wouldn’t it be true now? You need only the courage to follow your heart…

I don’t know what a love like that feels like… a love to leave loved ones for, a love to cross oceans for… but I’d like to believe if I ever felt it. I’d have the courage to seize it. I hope you had the courage to seize it, Claire. And if you didn’t, I hope one day that you will.”

To cut to the chase, Claire, now a widow, receives Sophie’s letter and flies to Italy, along with her grandson, to find Lorenzo. After travelling all over the Italian countryside, and a number of wrong turns, they finally find Lorenzo, now a wealthy vineyard owner, and himself a widower. So they pick up where they left off fifty years ago, and they get married, and live in Lorenzo’s vineyard, happily ever after.

As I was watching the film, I couldn’t help thinking about this story I read in Contemporary Philippine Literature class back in my freshman year of college – “Dead Stars” by Paz Marquez Benitez.Image

Alfredo is engaged to be married to Esperanza. They have been together a long time, and Esperanza is eagerly waiting for the marriage date. One day, Alfredo goes “neighboring” around their town. There he meets Julia, the town judge’s young sister-in-law, who is in town for a visit. Alfredo finds Julia attractive and interesting. He starts spending a lot of time with her, and yes, falls in love with her, to the point of almost breaking off his engagement with Esperanza. But Julia does not approve of his breaking his word to Esperanza, and she says good-bye to Alfredo.

Alfredo eventually marries Esperanza. Eight years pass… Alfredo is in Julia’s town for a business trip. He goes to visit Julia, still unmarried, whom he has never forgotten. But when he comes face to face with the Julia, he is surprised to find that he no longer feels the same way for her. The love he had felt for her has faded.

“So that was all over.

Why had he obstinately clung to that dream?

So all these years–since when?–he had been seeing the light of dead stars, long extinguished, yet seemingly still in their appointed places in the heavens.

An immense sadness as of loss invaded his spirit, a vast homesickness for some immutable refuge of the heart far away where faded gardens bloom again, and where live on in unchanging freshness, the dear, dead loves of vanished youth.”

And thus, my question, how do we know if it’s really true love, one that will survive five, ten, twenty, fifty years of separation, as opposed to just seeing the light of dead stars, love that has long been extinguished, and we’re only seeing the light, the idea, that we are still in love with that person?

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Being Good and True


Tanakawho - Busy busy...(by)

Image via Wikipedia

If you were busy being kind,

before you knew it, you would find

you’d soon forget to think ’twas true

that someone was unkind to you.

If you were busy being glad,

and cheering people who are sad,

although you heart might ache a bit,

you’d soon forget to notice it.

If you were busy being good,

and doing just the best you could,

you’d not have time to blame some man

who’s doing just the best he can.

If you were busy being true

to what you know you ought to do,

you’d be so busy you’d forget

the blunders of the folks you’ve met.

The Rings of Life


This anecdote is actually taken straight from a Catholic Catechism by Joseph Baxter.

A certain monarch caused the figure of an angel to be carved in white marble. From the left hand of this statue hung a silver ring attached to a thin silken cord, while the right hand held a golden ring suspended from a diamond chain. The king’s son and daughter asked their father what these two rings were intended to signify. He answered : “I will give the rings to whichever of you can guess their meaning aright.” Then the prince said : ” The rings are doubtless emblems of friendship and love.” The king replied : ” That is quite right. But why is one ring made of gold and the other of silver?” The princess answered: “The silver ring signifies human friendship and affection. That friendship, that affection, cannot be relied upon; it hangs, as it were, by a slight cord which is easily broken. The gold ring signifies the love of God for man ; that is firm and unchangeable ; it cannot be broken.” The king praised his children for the good answers they had given ; he gave the silver ring with the silken cord to the prince, and the gold ring with the chain of diamonds to the princess.(from history.inrebus.com)

In life, family and friends are important. They give us love, support, guidance. But, in the wink of an eye, things can change, relations can turn sour, cords can be broken.

God’s love for us, on the other hand, can stand any weather, any change, any circumstance. In Hebrews 13:5, Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” What a beautiful reminder for us that there is Someone who will be with us always. Be blessed. 🙂

Buy a Lottery Ticket


The front of a used Mark Six ticket

The front of a used Mark Six ticket (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is an old Italian joke that goes like this:

A long time ago, in a small village, there lived an old man. This old man visited the statue of a great Italian saint everyday. And everyday, he prayed for the same thing: “Please, please, please, make me win the lottery.” Rain or shine, the old man would visit the saint’s statue and pray the same thing over and over again. Finally, one day, the saint had enough! When the old man came to the statue again and prayed to win the lottery, the saint finally replied, “My dear old man, please buy a lottery ticket first!”

Silly old man, right? Of course, he should’ve bought the lottery ticket first. But aren’t we sometimes like this old man? When we want something, we pray.. and well, that’s it. Nothing wrong with praying, of course. It is our means of communing with God. But, partnered with prayer should be our own effort and action. There is a popular Filipino saying that goes – Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa. (God’s mercy is on those who help themselves.) I know we’re all familiar with this saying and you’re probably going, “Duh, everybody knows that.” Yes, we all know it, but do we all REALLY practice it?

Sometimes, we Christians tend to use the term “God’s will” a little too far. I have some single Christian guy friends who LOVE using this term to excuse them from having to court a girl. If someone asks them why they don’t court anyone , they’ll be like, “Oh, cause I haven’t found the right girl yet. I’ll just wait for God’s will.” And they really do just sit around and wait. Unfortunately, life is not like an Axe commercial where hot girls will just fall out of the sky and land at your feet. We all want to meet our life partner according to God’s will – no argument there. But guys, do you expect God to do the courting and dating for you, too?

Or how about someone looking for a job? Yes, we all want a good job. But do we just sit around and wait for God to hand the job to us? That’s not really the way it works. You expect God to be the one to put on a suit and go from job interview to job interview?

I just think that Christians who keep using “God’s will” as an excuse for everything that’s happening (or not happening) in their life are misleading testimonies of Christianity. We are NOT exemplifying great faith by this kind of behavior; we’re displaying laziness and a waste of God-given skills and talents.

After all, “God’s will is not an itinerary, but an attitude.” It’s not a step-by-step life guide we demand from God. As children of God, we have the free will to choose our paths in life – but always with submissiveness to God’s will for us. Now that’s what I call faith.

Just Another Wemmick Monday


“You are Special” by Max Lucado tells the story of a village of Wemmicks.

The Wemmicks are small wooden people all carved out by a woodworker named Eli. Some Wemmicks were tall, some were short, some had big eyes, some had small noses. Some Wemmicks were good at sports, others were talented singers. And then there were some who could only do little things and were not very pretty or talented at all. All day, everyday, the Wemmicks did only one thing: give stars or dots to each other. You see, each Wemmick had a box of golden star stickers and a box of gray dot stickers. The good-looking, talented, or athletic Wemmicks got golden stars – lots of them. And some got A LOT of golden stars that they keep doing other stuff in order to gain more stars. On the other hand, the Wemmicks who could do very little were given gray dots. 

Punchinello was one such Wemmick. He wasn’t good-looking, he wasn’t athletic, and he had no special talent. He’d try to improve himself and dare to do difficult things, but he’d fail and then the other Wemmicks gave him more gray dots. And then the Wemmicks would give him more gray dots for having too many gray dots! Things got so bad that he preferred to stay home – or if he went outside, he’d hang out with the Wemmicks who also had lots of gray dots. 

One day, Punchinello met a Wemmick unlike any other. She didn’t have any stars or dots. She was just wooden. Her name was Lucia. It wasn’t that the other Wemmicks did not try to give her stars or dots; they did. They just didn’t stick. When a Wemmick tried to give her a star, it just fell off. When a Wemmick tried to give her a dot, it also fell off. 

Punchinello wanted to be just like Lucia. So he asked her how she prevented the stickers from getting on her. Lucia told Punchinello that the reason is that she goes to visit Eli, the wood carver, everyday. And she told him to go see Eli, too.

Punchinello hesitated. Surely, someone as important as Eli wouldn’t want to see him. But, when he saw the Wemmicks going about their business of sticking stars and dots to one another, he resolved to visit Eli. So, he walked up the narrow path to Eli’s house and went in. There, he found Eli and they had a good conversation. At first, Punchinello tried to defend himself and to apologize to Eli for having so many gray dots. But Eli told him that he doesn’t really care what the other Wemmicks thought.

“You don’t?” Punchinello asked. 

“No, and you shouldn’t either. Who are they to give stars or dots? They’re Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special.”

Punchinello was astounded as to why Eli would think someone like him special. And Eli told him, “Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me.” 

Punchinello was touched. He’d never felt this loved – this worthy. And by none other than his maker!

Then he asked Eli about Lucia – why the stickers don’t stay on her.

To which Eli replied, “Because she has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them.” The stickers only stay on a Wemmick if it matters to them. If they learn to trust in Eli’s love and decide that what the other Wemmicks think doesn’t matter, then the stickers won’t stay.

Eli asked Punchinello to come see him everyday, so he can always remind him of how much he cares. Eli further reminded Punchinello that he is special because he made him. And Eli never makes mistakes. 

As Punchinello walked home, pondering over the meeting, he felt in his heart that Eli meant everything that he said. And a dot fell to the ground.

Did the story hit home? I have loved this story since the first time I read it in an email, back when I was eighteen years old. Recently, I came across the book in my class’s mobile library. And I was reminded of the beautiful moral lessons of this story.

Who are the Wemmicks? They’re you and I. Everyone is a Wemmick. We are all created by a sole wood carver, Eli – God. Like the Wemmicks, we all have different physical characteristics, talents, abilities, intellectual capacities. In a society obsessed with beauty and perfection, we are all subjected to praise and/or criticisms everyday. These are the golden stars and the gray dots.

Is it wrong for the Wemmicks to go around sticking stars  and gray dots on each other? Maybe. But can we really stop people from admiring us and/or judging us? Nope. Just like in the story, Eli’s solution for Punchinello’s problem wasn’t to stop all the other Wemmicks from what they were doing. He wasn’t like, “Hey, all you Wemmicks, stop sticking stickers on each other. Mind your own business.” Do you think we’d ever learn anything if God always took away our problems? No. Instead, God helps us overcome – to become stronger, better, to trust Him more.

I have met people who are full of gold stars. Nothing wrong with that. We all want to be admired, emulated, looked up to. Only, we shouldn’t let it get to our heads. People with gold stars sometimes find it hard to be honest with themselves – because they think they’re perfect. After all, you can’t argue with the masses, right? Don’t let the stars blind you. That’s why there are people who are so beautiful on the outside, but have no substance. Or people who are geniuses but lack compassion.

I have also met people who are full of gray dots. People who have been criticized too much, they think nothing they ever say or do is right. Like Punchinello, some try to emulate the gold star people so they can also get stars. Others just hide in their shells, until they’re barely visible. I remember this classmate of mine, back in high school. She was a nice girl, smart, well-behaved. At first, everything was fine. She got good grades, participated in class, had friends. But some time later, she started missing school a lot. I mean, she would be absent for days. Then she’d come back for a while, and then be absent again. Eventually, she stopped coming to school. And this is when we learned the reason for her absences. She felt that some of my classmates were making fun of her and saying nasty things about her behind her back. I can’t really speak for those classmates of mine. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. But what I really hated about this incident was that she let these ‘gray dots’ get to her and she and her education suffered because of it.    

Like Lucia, we shouldn’t let what others ‘stick’ on us define our existence – never let the opinion of others define who you are or what you are. That was what Eli was telling Punchinello. Because they’re all Wemmicks, just like him. Because we’re all human, just like everybody else.

It is only God’s opinion of us that matters. In the end, we will not be asked whether we got gold stars or gray dots… it is how we lived our lives and how the people around us were influenced by the life that we lived.  



Anyway


Anyway

popularized by Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

This poem was reportedly inscribed on the wall of Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta, India and has often been attributed to her. However, an article in the New York Times (March 8, 2002) has since reported that the original version of this poem was written by Kent M. Keith.

I have loved this poem since the first time I read it during a life improvement seminar. This poem made me reexamine my life. I profess to be a Christian, but why do I still value people’s opinions more than God’s? I guess a lot of us have this problem. Oftentimes, we are so consumed by the things that won’t really matter in the long run. That’s why we’re so stressed and tired.

In life, we all get hurt by other people. A mean comment from a stranger, a hurtful word from a friend, a betrayal by a loved one, these things scar us and make us jaded.Whether by words or by actions, they can ruin our day; they can even ruin our life – if we let them. Consider the story below:

The Law of Garbage Trucks

by David J. Pollay

Sixteen years ago I learned an important life lesson, in the back of a New York City taxi cab.

I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station.  We were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.

My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by mere inches! The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and started yelling bad words at us.  My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy.  And I mean, he was actually friendly!

So, I asked him, “Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and could’ve sent us to the hospital!”

And this is when my taxi driver told me about what I now call, “The Law of Garbage Trucks.”

“Many people are like Garbage Trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it, and if you let them, they’ll dump it on you.  When someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Instead, just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. You’ll be happier because you did.”

Wow.  That really got me thinking about how often do I let Garbage Trucks run right over me? AND, how often do I then take their garbage and spread it onto other people: at work, at home, on the streets?  It was that day I resolved, “I’m not going to do it anymore.”

Since then, I have started to see Garbage Trucks everywhere.  Just as the kid in the Sixth Sense movie said, “I see dead people,” I can now say, “I see Garbage Trucks.” 🙂

I see the load they’re carrying … I see them coming to drop it off.  And like my Taxi Driver, I don’t make it a personal thing; I just smile, wave, wish them well, and I move on.

A beautiful concept that can make our lives less complicated and so much happier. Learn to let go. Because if it doesn’t stop with us, where it will stop? So, forgive anyway, be kind anyway, succeed anyway, be honest and frank anyway, build anyway, be happy anyway, do good anyway, give the best you’ve got anyway.

Because in the end, it was never between you and other people – it has always been between you and God anyway.

The Truth of the Matter Is…


Everyone’s superficial. It’s just that we have varying degrees of superficiality. There are some people who are over-the-top superficial – those who won’t even give the time of day to someone who doesn’t have the perfect hair, the perfect face, the perfect body, the perfect clothes, the perfect car.. that’s the top of the superficial meter. For most human beings, we are somewhere in the middle-rung of the superficial ladder – we try not to judge people by their looks, but we still have certain standards for looks, especially in looking for our potential partner.

Don’t you just hate it when someone brands you as superficial because you turned down “this nice man” who you’re not really attracted to? That you’re a mean person because you should only look at the personality, at what’s  inside – never mind what’s on the outside. Yes, I agree that a person’s personality, beliefs, principles, heart are what’s most important. But looks also matter – to what extent, it depends on you. Different strokes for different folks. I daresay that anyone who tells me they’re 0% superficial is either a saint or a liar.

So, who’s superficial? I am. We all are. Admit it.

Just a thought…


I found my perfect guy – tall, handsome, good with kids, family-oriented, successful, and has the same faith as I do- he’s perfect… Well, almost. He has one tiny “flaw” – he’s not interested in me. Sigh.. Why is it so hard to find love? I feel like every guy that I’ve liked only sees me as a friend. On the other hand, every guy who has shown interest in me, I just can’t bring myself to be attracted to and interested in them. Is it too  much to ask that I meet a man whose looks and personality I like – and who also likes my looks and personality? For the moment, I’d say the answer is – yes, it is too much to ask. But I still hope…