Dignity, Not Pity

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Women Who Asked for Lipstick

In 2013, our office sent me to Zamboanga during a major exodus because of a siege. Families, particularly women and children, were forced to flee their homes, seeking refuge in evacuation centers set up in schools and along the roads. These displaced individuals had no home to return to.

I recall the fear I felt in my hotel room when I heard the sound of mortars from a distance. It was a different kind of fear that is hard to explain as compared to covering natural calamities. Here, you wouldn’t know if you were the target.

The following day, despite the trepidation, we conducted a stress debriefing in an evacuation center for students who were stranded because of blocked roads. During my live report, gunfire echoed in the background, but we continued with the debriefing.

Part of the work of the ABS-CBN’s program “Lingkod Kapamilya” is psychosocial debriefing like playing games and doing art, aside from relief and rehabilitation efforts-especially during a major calamity. Social workers assess what is needed in the area and see how we can intervene.

The women evacuees requested for lipstick.

“Lipstick? They need lipstick?”

2. Dignity, Not Pity

I couldn’t help but be somewhat amused. We were in a small classroom in a school functioning as an evacuation center. They lost all they had. And they were asking for lipstick? Later, I discovered why.

It wasn’t about the lipstick itself. It was about doing something basic to preserve their dignity and self-esteem. Despite having lost nearly all their possessions and their lives upended by external circumstances, they could hold their heads high and say, “OK, this happened. I will do what I can-one step at a time. I am still alive. I can rise again.”

Even in the depths of their current struggles, they refused to waste time wallowing in self-pity or seeking pity from others. Such attitudes would only further drag them down, not just physically but emotionally and psychologically as well.

Simple tasks that seem mundane under normal circumstances are big leaps for people going through trauma. Shock and upheaval often immobilize victims.

Making baby steps and taking it one day at a time made sense to me when I was overwhelmed with problems. There have been instances when I couldn’t proceed with my writing because my desk was cluttered and it was difficult to focus. When I cleared my work space, my writing flowed effortlessly. Clearing the external chaos can make a significant difference in our ability to navigate internal struggles.

Savor the Moment

Has something turned your world upside down and you don’t know what to do? Are you stuck, thinking of what and how you can get up from your present circumstances? Set those thoughts aside for a moment and look at yourself in the mirror. What simple tasks can you focus on today? What can you do to lift up your spirit?

Get out of bed. Wash your face. Put on some lipstick. Pray. Make a simple checklist and work on that.

*This excerpt was taken from WHEN BAD NEWS IS GOOD NEWS by Bernadette Sembrano-Aguinaldo, available in paperback and e-book copy at http://www.feastbooks.ph!

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