“Huwag maging SAD”
People living and travelling in Balanga City will surely not miss seeing this announcement printed on huge tarpaulins placed strategically in the city’s main thoroughfares. The giant posters boldly proclaims: “Huwag Maging SAD.”
The words are intriguing. Do they refer to the emotion? Is the sentence a teaser for a product that promises happiness? Is it a warning that SAD people are not wanted in the city and may face expulsion or be fined, much like those who litter and jaywalk?
The words are accompanied by morbid and dark pictures that could actually make the onlooker feel sad, if not turn away in disgust. There is no joyful aura in the admonition. “Huwag Maging SAD” after all is really a warning about the deleterious effects of SMOKING, ALCOHOL and DRUGS. The message appeals to everyone, “don’t smoke, don’t drink and don’t do drugs” because if you do then you will fall into endless sadness brought about by addiction, sickness, death, destruction, shame, scandal, and sin.
DON’T BE SAD
Don’t smoke. Smoking is wasteful, unhealthy, addicting, and polluting. Smoking is literally money going up in smoke. The “sin taxes” imposed by the government have made cigarettes very expensive. Consider this: a pack of cigarettes can cost from 40 to 60 pesos depending on the brand. That is about 8 to 10 pieces of bread or banana, or one and a half kilo of rice. A heavy smoker can finish a pack a day that means 800 to 1,000 pesos a month! This is good money that could be spent or saved for the needs of the family.
Smoking is unhealthy. All medical studies have pointed to the fact that smoking leads to many kinds of diseases not only for the smoker but for those around him or her. Smoking affects the lungs, the throat, the heart and the teeth. It is unhygienic and causes bad breath.
Don’t take alcohols. Don’t be lured into an alcoholic habit. As in smoking, it can be addicting. Drinking leads to impaired vision, body balance, and brain function. People who drink too much may be led to violent or dangerous behavior because of the loss of inhibition and heightening of anger. A drunk driver is a danger in the road; he can be a potential murderer.
There is this Hebrew saying about excessive and irresponsible drinking. It states, “first drink will make you mild like a lamb; the second drink will make you feel brave like a lion; the third will make you act like an ape; and the fourth will make you wallow in the mud or street like a pig.” These are wise words that have been proven true by those who drink, and drink excessively.
Don’t take drugs. Abusing drugs do not make a person special. On the contrary, the person abusing drugs, or is addicted to illegal drugs, is not in the limelight; he or she is in the dark, isolated from life, hidden, and devoid of true life aspirations of success, security, and fulfillment. Drug and substance abusers go for the momentary “high” that leads to shameful, and sinful actions that pleasure them. Sometimes this “high” leads to tragedy. For certain, drug abuse and addiction is a one way road to destruction and perdition. There is no life in drug and substance abuse. There is no comfort and joy; only pain, and slow death. Without rehabilitation there can be no happy ending for those who wallow in drugs. It is a tragedy not just for those afflicted, but also for the people around them, especially their families.
In my office at the newly reconstructed Cancelleria de Balanga, I can see from its balcony, the “Huwag maging SAD” tarpaulin just across the Plaza Mayor. Reading the message and reflecting on it, an interesting idea suddenly came to mind. “Why not come up with our own message on a tarpaulin to be posted the Cathedral premises? And the message is “Don’t SIN!” Sin occurs because of SIN. Sin begins when one is “SIN.” So don’t SIN: that is, don’t be selfish, indifferent, and negligent.
Don’t be selfish. As our “brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9) we should think of the well-being and welfare of others. We support them. We share with them. We serve them before we attend to ourselves. God listens to our prayers. God answers our petitions. And so let us be generous. Let us be gracious. What God gives us is not only for ourselves; they are also for others. We are God’s channels of His goodness. We extend God’s blessings to others. Remember Jesus assures us “do for others what you want them to do for you” (Matthew 7:12).
Our dear Holy Father Pope Francis reminds us, “We all have the duty to do good.” When we set aside our personal interests and personal ambitions and when we always take into consideration the good of others and of the Church, we avoid sins. We don’t sin.
Don’t be indifferent. As a radio commentator used to say, “May pakialam ka”; our “pakikialam is our pagmamalasakit.” Indifference means being callous, insensitive, and blind to the suffering and needs of others. It means evading the pitiful realities in life. We could do something better and beneficial; but we choose not to. We could be charitable and compassionate; but we are afraid to get involved. We fear that such involvement would disturb our comfort zones or demand from us time and treasure, we do not wish to give. We have all the means and resources to make a difference, to help or serve; but we shrug our shoulders, put our hands in our pockets, and walk away.
Being indifferent is self-defeatism because we reason out, “Wala akong magagawa, hanggang ganyan na lang ako.” Or we resort to same lame excuses such as, “Talagang wala ng pag-asa ang taong iyan.” Letting go of indifference is taking the initiative and doing it what is called for and necessary without being told or with no one compelling us to so. It is not to earn praises or rewards. Not desiring reciprocation, we still make the first move to share and to serve because we care for and are concerned for the condition and situation of others, especially those in need. When we are charitable and show compassion, we avoid sin. We don’t sin. On the contrary, we do good. Jesus teaches us to take the first step to be of service, as He said to his disciples “we must go on to other villages around here. I have to preach in them also. Because that is why I came” (Mark 1,38).
Don’t be negligent. We all have talents albeit in various ways and measures. And there are tasks entrusted to us. We all have potential. We make pledges and promises; we take oaths, make vows and even place our hands on the Bible, that we to do the task or job assigned or given to us. Thus we have to deliver. We have to perform and to produce to the best of our abilities. We have to fulfill what is being demanded or being expected from us.
Forgetfulness is not an excuse. To neglect is to miss out on what we are capable of accomplishing. Being negligent is to be prone to mistakes. It is to court failures. Negligence is the opposite of taking responsibility. It is in contrast to our sense of accountability. When we do faithfully what is asked from us, and fulfill them legally and morally, we avoid sin and occasions of sins. We don’t sin. We do good.
As I return to my office to put these thoughts into writing, I became even more convinced that our Diocese of Balanga could also put up a tarpaulin which says, “Don’t SIN.” Don’t be Selfish. Don’t be Indifferent. Don’t be Negligent. Do good and take the high road to God’s Kingdom.
+Ruperto C. Santos, D.D.
Bishop of Balanga