April 23, 2021
Who would have thought that an act of compassion can give birth to a movement that spreads across the nation? That exactly happened this week, as the humble bamboo cart of essential goods located along Maginhawa Street became an inspiration for Filipinos to help one another in times of crisis.
It all started when Ana Patricia Non, the founder of Maginhawa Community Pantry, set up a cart, stocked it with goods she bought from her own pocket, offered these for free to anybody in need, and posted her initiative on Facebook.
Soon enough, her post went viral, and many people donated and were inspired to start their own community pantry in their respective locations. As of writing, there are now over 300 community pantries all over the Philippines—and these happened all in just one week!
The idea of community pantry is simple: Take what you need; give what you can. It is a simple mutual aid to help vulnerable Filipino families to have food on their tables. As community pantries progressed, inspiring stories of beneficiaries and givers from community pantries circulated in social media and news, which moved some of our fellow countrymen to act. This proves that collective efforts work, and our economic limitations don’t dictate our capacity to bless.
This shows that in light of such initiatives, the contribution of the rich and the simpletons have equal value because people give based on their capacity to give. Whether someone has hundreds or thousands of pesos, anyone can start a community pantry! It also encouraged people to trust in one another. The majority of its beneficiaries do not hoard and people generously give donations of good quality. The people are actually participative in its principles.
Furthermore, many people attribute the birth of community pantries to the lack of concrete and sustainable solutions to the fight against the pandemic. On a personal note, while it is important to use our discernment and wisdom to assess all bases when it comes to forming our opinions and hypotheses on pressing social issues, it is equally important to be accountable with every emotion and thought that we entertain whether unspoken or not.
This means that we not only demand accountability from our elected leaders, but we must also have a responsibility to fact-check ourselves and to guard ourselves from falling to the trap of logical fallacies. The bottom line is, we are all accountable to God in the views and opinions we adhere to.
While community pantries are lauded by its heart to provide aid and sense of dignity to different Filipino families affected by the pandemic, one can’t help but wonder, “How long can we sustain this?” Charitable works often work horizontally: A giver gives to its recipients, and the work will sustain itself as long as there are people who give.
Community pantries and all other socially responsible initiatives are commendable acts. We are grateful to the Lord for the hearts of people to do something to make a change in the society. But we must strive to make lasting and meaningful effects on people. This happens when we embrace a vertical view where God’s heart and motive to redeem the whole world back to Him take the front seat.
This is the view of the gospel: God gave up His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice with the intention to save and restore humanity back to Him. This means that the brokenness of this world is deeper than hunger, poverty, and ideologies.
We can definitely provide ways to solve world hunger, poverty, and all other social issues. But, without acknowledging that sin is the ultimate reason for our own brokenness and that the gospel is the only message that can bring true and lasting transformation, we are bound to make solutions that will only solve what the eyes can see.
Jesus’ life is our model on what a Christian lifestyle looks like. His love and compassion for people is always partnered with action. He was intentional in meeting people, travelling from one town to another, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, tirelessly teaching, and spending time with people regardless of their race, status, and gender.
By now, we have realized that crisis should bring out the best in people and the community pantries served as a concrete and encouraging example of that because it brings people together for the common good. This resonates in our hearts because it is a snapshot of God’s will and purpose for humanity.
Just as the love and service of Jesus Christ to humanity turned the world upside down, imagine what will happen when all of us—redeemed and deeply loved by God—choose to make our life’s mission the advancement of God’s kingdom not just during the time of national crisis, but in our everyday lives?
Can you imagine the impact it would cause—if people would choose not to depend on their capacity to give but on God’s capacity to sustain and provide?
Community pantries reveal the flaws of our humanity, but it also reflects God’s heart to redeem humanity by using His people to be the salt and light to the world. In light of God’s kingdom, what is something burning in your heart that you want to see changed in your family, school, or community?
Whatever it may be, our hope is that you will feel God’s heart towards His people and experience His strength as you make the first step in starting change on your side of the world.