Raoul’s Two Cents: July 8, 2022
As I shared last week, I was on an extended travel to a beach house in a little village named Dalipuga in Southern Philippines. While I was there, so many things happened back in the States (both in business and personal matters) that needed my attention so by the first week I was already pinning to go back home. It was an excruciating countdown to return to the USA.
Despite the short “prison term” I made good use of my time. Almost every morning I had a goal to accomplish for that day. And so for the next couple of weeks, I intend to share some lessons from my stay over there. I hope that’s okay.
My brother Paco
That isn’t his real name but that’s what his friends called him. To me he was always Gary, my little brother who thought a lot, laughed a lot and dreamed a lot. His philosophy in life was greatly influenced by Atticus in the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In fact, that was one of his names. He became a lawyer and a scientist … a Director for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in Washington DC for about 30 years. A series of events (like his dissatisfaction with the previous administration who “didn’t believe in science”) made him quit his job and he found himself alone in a village called Mindo in the jungles of Ecuador which is the northernmost tip of the great Amazon Rain Forest. All throughout his career, he saw the importance of preservation. He made feasibility studies of Ecuador, and then plans which he presented to scientific bodies and received a huge grant from MIT. Two of his articles are published in Travelingboy.com. He was building his dream of a sanctuary for birds and lost souls (people with broken hearts). He invited all of us siblings to retire there. He would shoulder all expenses –“come … just come … all I want is your presence here” he said with excitement. One of my sisters and Paco’s daughters planned a trip this September. I too was seriously considering a trip early next year.
In the morning of June 9, I got a call from my sister. She was sobbing uncontrollably. “Raoul, I need you to sit down. I have some very bad news … Gary is dead. He’s dead!”
“What?!? We were just talking to him a few days ago. Dead?!? How?! Why?!?” My questions rattled out in rapid succession.
The hotel maid found Paco dead in his room just a few hours ago: his face peaceful; his body wrapped inside his blanket; his right hand clenched. Apparently, it was his first and last heart attack. Paco had no enemies. In fact, the whole village knew him and loved him. He was last seen alive playing with the children of the village. Later, we learned from his wife that Paco had a history of unchecked high blood pressure and cholesterol. We assumed he was healthy because he would hike 45 minutes up and down the hill that he purchased almost everyday. We were wrong. And he was gone. My dear sweet genius of a brother had gone on to be with the Lord.
Night fell and I could not sleep. I crept out of the house around 2 in the morning and walked to the beach and looked at the dark horizon. The stars were hidden by the clouds. I asked God so many questions. I started to write a song with the thought that “it should have been me.” Gary had so many wonderful plans for mankind. My dreams were nothing compared to his. It should have been me. I’ve lived a long enough life. No more mountains to climb. I’m near retirement. My kids are grown and independent. My wife could survive without me … in fact, I always joke around that she could benefit from my insurance. My different circle of friends (including YOU) would miss me for a time and then life would go on. Life is short.
In the gospel of Luke chapter 20, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool who had plans to increase his storage for more profit:
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”
Paco had done his research. Out of all the spots in this great big planet, Ecuador was where he could make the biggest impact for society. But beautiful and noble though his plans were, they were not God’s plan.
What, may I ask, are your plans? What are you to do today? Tomorrow? What does your big picture look like? Is it centered around you?
33 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. 34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
I’m thinking about this myself. Perhaps our plans may not be as grandiose as saving the planet but take heart —we are not all called to save the planet. God called some of us to be Kings and some to be pawns. Both are important. Some of our plans are never meant to come to fruition but the process is meant for us to grow closer to the Lord. Let’s not miss the sign posts in our life journey. Think about it: Why have you survived Covid? Why do you still occupy space among the living? Whatever our purpose, let’s do it well. Let’s ponder it together.
Joke of the Week
Thanks to Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA for these riddles.
Thanks to Tom of Pasadena, CA
Thanks to Maling of Manila, Philippines
Thanks to Efren of Manila