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When Kindness Flows Freely

There was a time, when my work was external relations, when events were my bread and butter – and I thrived when I and my staff were holding or hosting something. I loved the need for organization; the application of Murphy’s Law when threshing out all the details; and the incessant flow of creative juices especially when an event was impending.

Most of these went away when I stepped up into executive management. The work was more procedural and repetitive; and while creativity was still necessary in management problems, it was never of the sort that was needed and expected when I and my staff were planning for events in the old days.

Having stepped down from executive management, I found myself thrust back into the line of work that I had so much experience in; albeit, without the benefit of my own staff. Organizing events, therefore, was more coordinative than direct hands-on involvement.

Among the things I thought up in line with the centennial as well as the school’s golden jubilee celebrations was a series of dinners jointly hosted by the Culinary Arts Institute and the Development Office. The concept was simple; and by no means novel.

The late Brother Rafael – who I refer to in this blog as the Brother Lolo – used to talk about this culinary academy in France owned by the Brothers that was operated almost entirely by students. All I did was to adopt the concept for a fund-raising event that would benefit the school’s scholarship fund; and in so doing lined up something that was also in support of the centennial celebrations.

With Chef Shirley de Jesus of the Culinary Arts Institute – who was receptive and supportive from the word go – I developed the idea for the dinner series. We would be asking volunteers from among the more advanced student chefs to donate their services in what was, essentially a win-win situation. The student chefs would be getting actual practice and – therefore – experience of the real deal; and the experience they would be able to include in their CV’s.

For the reception, waitering and back-end services, we would be turning to the HRM and Tourism students who themselves would benefit from the practice and experience. It was remarkably simple!

When the time came to bring the project off the planning boards, we brought in Ariane Libat, whose office – development – would be the recipient of the proceeds which would, eventually, be funneled into scholarships. We also brought in Israel Tan of Alumni Linkages, thinking as we did that there would be, among the alumni and alumnae, who would not mind giving back to the school.

The first task was to meet the graduating class of chefs. This, Chef Shirley and Ariane took care of. All credit to the graduating class; six chefs volunteered on the spot and two more volunteered later. We could ask for no more.

Staff of the school’s Presidential Management Office then went to work on the logistics outside of the actual dinner: looking for sponsors, publicizing the event, seeking out potential customers, etc. Chef Shirley and the graduating chefs made themselves busy preparing for the actual dinner – no small task since the student chefs were out on internships.

Well, today is the day after. We had the first of the dinner series last night. It was not without glitches; but these I can happily overlook because last night, if I may sum everything up, was just simply a night of kindness.

Because the semestral finals are just around the corner and many of the HRM and Tourism students were out on internships, those who were present to lend a hand were all volunteers who wanted to be there. That young lady who busied herself steam-pressing the tablecloths in the afternoon along with the two young gentlemen who busied themselves getting the café ready for the event, they were all themselves beneficiaries of scholarship grants and said yes when asked without second thoughts. These young people’s selflessness, it humbles me! Amazing!

We asked Crecelda Roldan of the Cultural Office to be event director and hostess and she totally devoted herself to her role and even gave herself a makeover specifically for the event. She also found us a lounge singer – a college coed who sat patiently and uncomplainingly in the afternoon while the sound system was being set up so she could feel the place out and do a number or two as practice.

As the event concluded and the guests had all gotten up, I asked if she had had dinner and to my chagrin I was told that no, she and her guitarist – also a student volunteer – had not. Yet both just kindly smiled at me like they were just happy to have been there whether they were fed or not.

Before dinner, I dined at the long table that Chef Shirley had thoughtfully had laid out at the ground floor so all the volunteers could be fed a simple meal. Even the students who served us our meals were graciously kind and surprisingly more professional even than those one finds in many commercial establishments. One student saw I had only a spoon and ran off to get a fork; even after I had reassured him that I would manage without one. I totally appreciated that he did come back seconds later with a fork.

Towards the end of last night’s affair, after all the paying guests had happily dined, we showed a short video about the lives of three beneficiaries of our scholarship grants – if just to show everyone that they had paid good money for a worthwhile cause. The videos – Hollywood quality, that I will assure you; and I am very discriminating – were created pro bono by a couple of our very own alumni.

There were teary-eyed people at the café as the film concluded; and I saw one of the male student waiters near me stroke his chest to indicate that he was touched by what one of the scholars had to say about his life and how being able to study at the school meant to him.

The film just simply summed up what the night was for all of us: the organizers, the student volunteers, the alumni who made the film, the scholars who opened their lives for all to see and, of course, the paying guests. It was a night when kindness just flowed freely; and everyone felt a great joy inside by just having given something of himself or herself so that those who have less may have a bit of relief from the daily hardships that they have to live through.

There are those who think that kindness can be forced; and I know of people who have tried it this way. You cannot. You have to ask for it and be kind yourself when asking. Then, kindness will flow back to you freely, especially if what you are asking for is for something good. I think most people are intrinsically good; but you just have to know how to bring out the best in them.

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