Guest post by Clara Hare-Grogg, 2019-2020 Young Adult Volunteer
The Philippines, where I served as a Young Adult Volunteer until being evacuated due to the global pandemic, is acutely vulnerable to disasters like volcanic eruptions, typhoons, and floods. Even everyday weather is notoriously unpredictable. The ability to deal with the unexpected has therefore embedded itself in Filipino culture. My time in the Philippines became a lesson in adaptability and resilience as I adjusted to circumstances throughout the year – including right up to the evacuation – that I couldn’t have predicted.
I think now about the people I met over the past several months: urban street vendors, survivors of human trafficking, and people with HIV, to name a few. I am reminded that their remarkable resilience does not cancel the injustices that marginalize them. No one has gone unaffected by COVID-19, but each of our circumstances is totally different. My experience as a YAV enabled me to recognize the many privileges that allow me to embrace this time of ambiguity, while others struggle with the outrageously unfair hand dealt to them by society and exacerbated by the pandemic.
As I adjust to my own new reality, I remember the lessons that my Filipino community taught me on dealing with uncertain futures: First of all, it’s alright if I don’t know the details of what lies ahead – no one else knows, either. It’s better to appreciate the present, if I can just slow down enough to recognize it. When something difficult arises, we will deal with it and find a way to laugh about it. And through it all, during the highs and the lows and even physical separation, we have sacred community with each other.
Sometimes on Philippine coastlines, when the sea is flat and the sunlight hits just right, a curious visual phenomenon occurs in which the water blends into the sky and the horizon line is completely obscured. Even in the unknown, there is beauty, and where there is beauty, there is God.