She was petite, she looked like she was in her 70’s, and she had a kind and gentle face. I noticed her as I approached the row of bathroom sinks because she was busy going through her little bag, pulling out a number of colorful sheets. It looked like she had around a hundred stamps, preserved in clear plastic sheets. She looked up to me and smiled, and asked, “Do you collect stamps?”
I smiled back and replied, “No, I don’t. But wow, those are a lot of stamps!”
“I’m giving them away,” she said, “but I’d like to give them to someone who really collects them.”
“Oh…” I said, not knowing how to respond, but trying hard to think if I knew anyone who collected stamps. Not being able to think of anyone, I just asked, “Why are you giving them away?”
She gave me a small smile and said, “Well, I’m getting old…” and she trailed off, as if she expected me to know the rest of the sentence. She shrugged her shoulders and started heading for the exit. I didn’t know what to say, so I just said the standard “Sayang naman po,” which is translated in English to mean “That’s too bad.”
As she was walking towards the door, she stopped and turned around to face me, she paused, then asked, “Would you like them?”
I looked into her eyes, and she looked like a woman who felt resigned, and had no other option. It was an incredibly generous offer, but I felt like if I would take the stamps, I would not be doing justice to what this woman has invested in over the years. She noticed my hesitation and asked if I would like her to teach me. Since this conversation was not in my plan for the day and I still had errands to run, my automatic response was, “Hindi na muna po, pero thank you! Baka po hindi ko matutukan, sayang naman po. Sana po may mahanap kayo na pwedeng pagbigyan!” (Loosely, I meant to say “Now is not a good time, thank you! I might not be able to focus on it, and it would go to waste. I hope you’ll be able to find someone to give them to!”) We smiled at each other and parted ways.
This happened last week, and I’ve been thinking about this encounter since then. I’ve been thinking about our hobbies and our passions–those stuff that bring light to our eyes and joy into our hearts. Sooner or later, we will grow old, and one day we will pass away, but we won’t be able to take these things with us. What will happen to them?
Some of us would like to think that one day, we’ll have children to pass them on to. But what happens if our children don’t like them as much as we do? Or what if we don’t have children to pass them on to?
As I write this post, I can’t help but regret my response to the kind lady. I wish I took the time to say yes, ask her name, sit down with her, and let her tell me all about this hobby that she was so passionate about. I wish I had the chance to see her eyes light up as she would tell me about what makes each stamp valuable and unique. If I could turn back time, I would have answered differently. Maybe I wouldn’t take the stamps, but I would at least let her tell me about them.
I can’t turn back time, but all I can do is write out my thoughts and appeal to you: if there’s someone in your life who wants to share a piece of themselves with you, would you let them do it? You don’t have to make any promises and rearrange your life, but you can simply say, “I want to hear about what makes you come alive.” And on the flip side, don’t let your life pass by without sharing what you’re passionate about with other people. Speak about it, write about it, take photos of it. Thanks to technology, there are many ways to do it. When you share what you’re passionate about, you come alive. As author, educator, and civil rights leader Howard Thurman once wrote, “what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I totally agree.
And as I write this, I know I’m ‘speaking’ to myself, too. :)