“Ouch! Ouch! Help! Help! Everybody help me, please!”
Having grown up by the sea, swimming has become my favorite pastime. Whenever I see the seashore, I could not resist seeing the sea without diving into it. It’s like the sea would pull me to it, and I could never say “No”.
In one of my recent visits to my home town, I enjoyed the company of my uncles, aunts, cousins, and other relatives. Actually, we have never thought of having an activity for that day at first, such as that one. But then, unexpectedly, it turned out to be like a long-range planned reunion for us all that day with several activities for fun and relaxation taking. And one of those unforgettable events we had, was our swimming spree.
My folks and I decided to go to a nearby beach in my hometown where all of us could swim for free. The shoreline was a bit far-flung from our house. So, my cousins suggested that we ride a banca going to the place. However, I protested, “Instead of taking a banca, why don’t we just walk so we could have a little exercise?” “That’s a good idea!” My relatives chorused. “Anyway, it’s only more than a kilometer walk from here,” they continued to say. So, we started walking, and soon after we reached the beach.
The coast looked very scenic. Lush and green grasses surrounded the upper area. Boulders stood on the sand. A canopy of tall and verdant trees sheltered us. A vast white sand divided the sea and the shore. The morning sun tilted toward the protected place where we stationed ourselves. Indeed, the serene surrounding welcomed meditation. I decided to roam around to find a place to sit to start my musing episode.
In a couple of seconds, I found myself in deep introspection. I felt at ease, relaxed, and so refreshed, ready for the morning event. Sitting on a rock facing the blue-green sea, taking pleasure in the early sunlight, I lingered a little while. I chose to stay in a more distant place from my companions. I hummed a tune while relaxing in the cool morning on a rock. The water before me appeared so inviting for me. Like a magnet, it pulled me down to it. And with my eyes still glued on the greenish-blue water, I couldn’t hold myself anymore. So, slowly, I stood up, took a deep gasp, and, “Hello everyone”, I shouted as I dove into the cerulean water.
Surfacing from the cool sea a few minutes after, I felt satisfied and whispered to myself, “What a thrill! A perfect delight! A gorgeous day to enjoy life!” Once more, I dunked myself in the deep sea joyfully.
However, as I was dipping in the water, I felt a sudden twinge of pain. “Help! It’s so painful! Ouch! Ouch!” I shouted. I swam as fast as I could to the shore. “Help! Help me, everybody, please!” I screamed. “What’s wrong with you?” My aunt Indeng asked. “I don’t know! But my legs! Look at my legs!” “They are aching and numb. I don’t understand.” I answered anxiously.
Not wanting to look at my legs, fear gripped my heart thinking what might have happened to my legs! The pain seemed so unbearable. It’s a kind of pain I have never experienced or felt before. “I think a shark has bitten my legs!” I shouted in terror. “No! The water is so shallow. That’s impossible!” aunt Indeng objected. All of my relatives moved closer to me and inspected my tiny legs. “Ah! I know!” My cousin Beboy yelled as he pointed to my legs. “That’s a Jellyfish! A very poisonous jellyfish has attacked you.”
Silence hushed everyone. Yes indeed. Cousin Beboy got it right. A jellyfish wedged between my legs. It held my two feet and rubbed them with its long poisonous tentacles. The jellyfish spread its venomous tentacles from my ankles to my knees and even up to my thighs. ”Ouch!” I howled in pain that I couldn’t explain. I wailed like a tot. I whimpered in agony. I stared at my legs. “Oh my!” “They’re turning bluish, then purplish.” The more I looked at my legs the more they frightened me. They appeared so horrible.
“Go, climb and get a coconut! Quick!” My aunts all shouted in a nervous tone. My male cousins climbed the nearest coconut trees as if engaged in a race. Some of them ran to the other directions to find some herbs to help me with the pain. Soon, three huge coconuts and plenty of leaves lined before me. But still, I moaned in pain.
As I agonized in distress, something else caught my attention. I don’t know how my uncle Erning did it, but with my two eyes, I saw him peel and break the matured coconuts with his bare hands. That really amazed me. “How in the world did he do it?” I wondered.
Then my aunts munched the coconut flesh as fast as they could. Soon, I felt something soothing and cool as one of them rubbed the chewed coconut flesh on my aching legs and thighs. The pain suddenly subdued as if a soft bulk of ice had been gently dropped on my hurting legs.
After a few minutes of excruciating pain, a sigh of relief overwhelmed me. Then in a very soft voice, I said,
Why in the world? Why only me when there were many of us swimming in that area?
There were five of us-my cousins and I who had swum exactly in the same location, but it’s only I who got into trouble? “It’s only I who was victimized by the jellyfish? How come?” I muttered. A long silence followed. Then my uncle Erning gently spoke, “Ruby, you must remember that you have not come home for a long time. So, probably, the jellyfish misses you already.” Everyone smiled while nodding his head in approval. “Maybe, it is just the jellyfish’ way of greeting you since you haven’t seen each other for quite a time,” my uncle jokingly continued.
I grinned to uncle Erning and said, “What a perfect statement, uncle.” In the back of my mind, I whispered, “My uncle has a point—an important message that I should grasp.” And uncle Ernesto persisted, “It’s only the jellyfish’s way of greeting you, Ruby. It is his way of hugging you perhaps since you haven’t come home for a long time already.” What a thought. And though in pain, I replied, “What a unique way of greeting me, uncle. A terrible way of embracing me indeed.” Another moment of silence followed.
Well, have you ever thought about it? What’s your style of greeting your friends when you meet them? How do you treat your relatives or other people when you visit them or when you meet them? Often, I have observed that when one arrives from a trip especially from a foreign country, something typical happens—that is at least among us Filipinos. I’m not sure about other cultures though.
Upon arrival, a Filipino usually greets his friends and relatives with goodies—abundant chocolates, exotic gadgets, expensive clothes, and other stuff as pasalubong. Wow! It’s a joy to see that these relatives are happy and smiling as their balikbayan friends or relatives hand them the pasalubong. What a sight to see.
On the other hand, it’s a sad thing to note that some people, greet their friends and relatives in an entirely different way—an unhealthy way. They greet them with hard drinks—Whisky, Gilbeys, Tanduay, to name a few. Others greet their friends with Winston, Marlboro, and other expensive toxins for the body, just like the jellyfish which stung me causing me pain.
As I reflected on this incident, I am led to think of the following biblical principles reminding me how we should treat people as we mingle or meet them. Jesus Himself exemplified these principles in His own life when He lived here on earth. Let us take a look at these timeless principles and learn from them as Christ’s followers.
1. Bear Each Other’s Burdens
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2, ESV).
Today, you and I face different challenges in all aspects of our lives. Every individual faces an issue unique from others. Your problem may be that of financial problems. Someone right now maybe battling with a health issue. Another may be struggling with finding a job or losing it. A brother or sister right now maybe even grieving over the death of a loved one. These and much more are the realities of life today.
As a community of Christians, Jesus admonishes us to help carry the troubles of our brothers and sisters in any means we can. You are called to assist in alleviating the suffering of others. It doesn’t have to be financial all the time. Whatever capacity you have right now, I believe there is always an opportunity for you to get involved in this type of ministry. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you pray, He will guide you to find someone to help.
2. Seek Other’s Good—Not Only Our Own
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. (Romans 15:1, NASB).
This verse has two very important points. First, it calls our attention to the fact that there are those who are weak brothers and sisters in the world today. And those of us who are strong have the responsibility to help those who are feeble or struggling. Whether it is physically, emotionally or maybe in their walk with Jesus.
The second part of the verse reminds us that we are not here in this world simply to live life for ourselves. As God’s children, you and I have the obligation to others—your or our fellowmen, our brothers and sisters. We don’t merely exist for ourselves and live for ourselves. The English poet John Donne poignantly expressed his thoughts about this when he penned the lyrics of a song entitled, No Man Is an Island,
No man is an island,
No man stands alone,
Each man’s joy is joy to me,
Each man’s grief is my own.
We need one another,
So I will defend,
Each man as my brother,
Each man as my friend…
3. Encourage One Another
This is why you must encourage and help each other, just as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, CEV).
There are times when people are just so discouraged that it seems to them there is no way out for them. There are those who have lost hope and are ready to give up on life. Others are on the verge of death—not wanting to live anymore.
In fact, these discouraged ones, when no one comes to their rescue, often end up committing suicide. What a sad thought that would be. However, think about how beautiful it would be if, you are able to come, listen to them, and rescue him from his plan of ending his life?
4. Greet One Another With Kindness and Love
Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. (1 Thessalonians 5: 26, ESV).
This text teaches us that meeting each other is a wonderful opportunity to minister to others. Greeting our brothers and sisters with a holy kiss is a cue to every Christian believer that when you come to mingle with others, this is a special occasion to aid someone’s need or needs—an avenue to reach out others—to touch their heart, burden, or whatever trouble they may be going through.
Greeting our brothers with a holy kiss could mean, a sacred and very intimate time to say to our brother or sister, “how are you doing?” or “how do you feel today?” “Is there something I can do to ease how you feel?” Thus, knowing how that brother or sister feels, you may take the time to listen to him and find out about his concerns and afterward, you can offer to pray for them or just do something to lighten his burden.
Now, whatever your way of greeting your friend is when you come to meet them, I hope it is something wholesome. After learning these biblical concepts, I hope it is not like the way that the jellyfish greeted me, inflicting pain on me. Maybe it’s time to make a difference. Maybe it’s time to try a better way of greeting and treating our friends as we meet them.
Why don’t we do it now? Why not start it now? The next time you meet or mingle with your friends, why don’t you bring them good things when you come home or visit them on vacations? I mean—instead of giving them something that destroys their health, bring them something which is nourishing to their body, soul, and spirit. In this way, you are fulfilling Christ’s mission.
 Banca is a local term for a small boat.
 Note: Names have been changed for privacy purposes.
 Pasalubong is a local term for bring home or something you bring for someone when you return or come from a trip or vacation.
 Balikbayan is a local term used for a Filipino who works abroad and then return to his home after a certain period of time.