by Amin Hataman, RMTLI NextGen Youth Leader
Ever since I was younger, I had always wanted to make some kind of impact. If not in the world, then in the country. If not the country, maybe my province. If not my province, maybe in my community. Regardless, the point remains the same: I’ve wanted, still want to, make a change for the better somehow. I want to leave this world better than when I arrived. Ambitious, I know, but I think this is something that many of us wish for and I can say with relative confidence that for a lot of us, it’s the sole reason we get up in the morning.
Of course, that’s presumptuous of me. I’m aware that just as there are people who seek to make great change, there are others who wish for nothing more than to live their lives and enjoy what finite, precious time we’ve been given to explore such a vast and full world. I consider that a valid - and beautiful - way to live, too.
However, that also means that the chances of me meeting people who do want to create an impact would then become fewer and further between, and as such I find myself more and more excited whenever I get the opportunity to do so. I was in Basilan when I got the call, and before long I had found myself in a Zoom call with other supposed “Young Leaders”.
I personally dislike calling myself that, and cringe at the thought of telling others I was anything like a leader, only because the title is something I find to be precious, and bestowed only by others. In all honesty, I had begun to worry that this may only be yet another among countless other leadership programs that would boil down to nothing more than inspirational speeches, flowery words, and posts on social media.
Safe to say, such sentiments quickly proved to be wrong the second the first Ramon Magsaysay Awardee appeared, and took over my screen. At that moment, the pomp and the grandiosity was nowhere to be found, and I was instead greeted by a face, a story, that was all too real. It goes without saying that I quickly and silently scolded myself for the comments I had made earlier in my head, and I realized the opportunity at hand.
Lectures were given, questions were asked, instruments were played, ideas were shared, as each session passed and we spoke to musicians, activists, public servants, social workers, and scientists. At night, I discussed with my group mates, and as soon as we finished what we needed to for the next session’s presentation, the atmosphere lost all of its tension, and we quickly returned to making fun of each other, and sharing our thoughts, occasionally wondering if the ghost haunting my room would finally get me if the power ever went out.
In hindsight, I notice that it was the small moments―the breaking out of laughter amongst my group, the quiet sharing of our cohort’s hopes, dreams and what we consider most important, and the rare glimpse of vulnerability in the tears shed from someone in grief, that convinced me of one thing. Behind all of these awards and all the spectacle, the accolades and the titles, are real people. People who want to make some kind of impact, if not in the world, then in their country. If not the country, their province. If not their province, in their community. People who want nothing more than to leave this world better than when they arrived. From the oldest among the awardees, to the youngest of my cohort, from different countries and different walks of life and with just as many varying advocacies, this seems to be the one constant.
This simple, pure thought. It may just be enough.
Greatness of Spirit was a recurring theme in the program, a foundational idea―one that we return to often. It was defined for us very early on in our sessions, and many examples were given to enlighten us as to what it is. I must admit, however, that the meaning still eludes me. I can give some sense of the concept, but I suspect that full understanding requires experience first - true experience tempered by hardship, and tailored to our specific experiences, changing to fit our stories.
As we all go further along our journey of trying to create great change and trying to define Greatness of Spirit for ourselves, all of our paths will likely diverge, as we fight on different battlefields and for similar, yet different causes. I accept that I will be made to make difficult decisions, and face difficult challenges and hardships; and I will have to face them in solitude. But when I think of the Ramon Magsaysay Awardees who have made the journey, and my cohort currently on the same one as I am now, I confess―I feel a little less alone.
I think that’s enough.