A Speech by:
Enrique Salvador E. San Agustin
It was almost Christmas Eve; the cupboard was empty; the table was without food and we had NO ELECTRICITY! In fact, we've had no electricity for the past six months! All that was left were just SEVEN CANDLES... Seven Candles to light our house for the rest of the month... How did we get this low?
Our past Christmases were never like this! They were always well celebrated, well attended and well LIGHTED... We had money back then; but it wasn't because I was successful... My Dad was successful! In fact, he provided for all of us... my family included. Because of this, we could afford to send my children to exclusive schools and we could also afford travel to foreign lands like Europe, Japan and Australia.
And... I did little to try to get out from under my father's wing... and why should I? Life was easy back then!
But come to think of it, it was this “easy life” that made us complacent! I lived irresponsibly and my family disrespected me for it. My children only obeyed me out of fear and my wife grew very distant from me. I... I was never a father to my children and I was even less of a husband to my wife! Money had made us strangers. I didn't know my own children and they didn't know me!
Yes, we had money; but then one day, the money stopped! My father had lost his “high paying” job and I couldn't provide enough for my family. My wife tried to take matters into her own hands by putting up a business; but it didn't last very long and we found ourselves getting deeper and deeper into debt. Poverty was now a reality... and we reeled at its wake.
In a year, everything we had was gone!
And it was my children who suffered the most! Some of them had to stop studying... and those who were able to go to school, went to school hungry... and though they kept their silence; it's as if I could hear my children's thoughts in my head shouting: “What have you done to us, Daddy? Why are we suffering? Why did you allow this to happen?” The guilt inside me was simply overwhelming!
The years that followed would find us moving from house to house; always to look for a place that was big enough to suit my family of seven, yet cheap enough for us to afford. Eventually, we found this house that was next to a shanty area and had neither an electrical connection nor running water! We had to use candles to light our way during the nights.
For several months we had no electricity! And now it was Christmas Eve... and we still had no electricity! Can you imagine spending Christmas and New Year without electricity? I've officially hit rock-bottom!
Now, we were down to our last SEVEN CANDLES.
In order to save on our candles, my wife would let the candle wax of each candle drip into a bowl that had a wick sticking out of it so that when the bowl was full, we would have another candle... Eventually, we would have created a bigger candle because each of the SEVEN CANDLES that we lit that night would contribute to this new candle's creation!
That evening, we were seated around the dinner table; celebrating Christmas with no electricity, very little food and no Christmas gifts. And perhaps it was because we had very little that night that we decided to just sit around the table; telling stories or singing songs or just fooling around! It was at this point that I noticed something different... And I was starting to see my family in a different light!
My family is beautiful! I never realized just how beautiful they really were! They were not crushed by the situation! They rose above it! My wife strove to fill up what was lacking in my earnings and my children got very high grades in school despite the hardships... Some of them even became scholars!
I must have been so consumed by our poverty to notice that my family was being rebuilt... and I was being rebuilt along with them as well...
During that Christmas in the dark, I realized that the SEVEN members of my family were just like these SEVEN CANDLES! The fire of hardship had melted away our individuality and created one family.
How ironic that in the darkest and most desperate part of our lives my FAMILY's LIGHT filled our entire house! It was the BRIGHTEST Christmas we've ever had! Friends, I ask you; if hope resides in our darkest moments, why should any of us be afraid of the dark? Wasn't it Emerson who said: “It is when night is darkest that the stars shine brightest...”?
Today, we are financially just a little better off than before. But this isn't about money. It's about how Seven Candles came together to form one candle... and... how Seven individuals came together and formed one family!... My Family!
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