-A narrative expository essay.-
Previously published at the Last Quarter issue of the Hawaii Paralegal Reporter in 2008.
The Glory of Giving
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” -John Wesley
It was four days before the Honolulu Citizenship Fair 2008, when Evelyn Gomez of the Hawaii State Bar Association (HSBA) confirmed me I was “in” for the said event. Ms. E as I fondly called her, always inspired me of her big heart and generosity. I met her in 2007, for my legal training with HSBA. She introduced me to Anne Basham, coordinator for the Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii, who just like Ms. Evelyn was so warm and friendly.
So came the day of May 31, 2008, of my first pro bono project, I came in late. Since it was my first, and that no one told me, I never knew volunteers have to be there an hour early. Rushing to the elevator, I met Anne anew, and that gave me an opportunity to fast chit-chat with her, as I eased myself from tensions of coming in late. We sneaked in the room where the briefing already started, and found Pat McManaman of Na Loio, speaking before volunteer attorneys and paralegals.
Our goal was to assist three applicants each partner of one attorney and paralegal. Attorneys will execute the interview and the paralegals have to enter the data on the adobe (pdf) form that was already pre-set and ready for our use on every computer in the four allocated rooms, at the Building 5 of the Honolulu Community College.
I was so lucky being partnered to one well-known Honolulu immigration attorney, Mr. Gary Singh (my partner in every fair, for five straight years now). Our first applicant was a fellow middle-aged Filipina, who had been in the State of Aloha for quite awhile. She was initially nervous, but Atty. Singh’ sense of humor eased her eventually.
Our second was Mr. Herminigildo Bardolasa, a 66-year old, Filipino immigrant who had been here for three decades now. During the interview, the three of us, often burst laughing on how candid and funny Mr. Bardolasa answered our questions. He amazed us of how keen his memory on important dates; The date of his wedding, of his migration to the United States, his and his entire household’s alien numbers and birthdays, without a codico (cheat sheet), as he smartly answered all questions with ease and so spontaneously.
Suddenly, the then congressman, Neil Abercrombie, now Hawaii governor, appeared out of nowhere and joined our light moment. As a result, all the reporters and photographers came rushing to our side. Abercrombie went his way to meet all the applicants as well, and assured them that along with Na Loio, the realization of their American dream. The governor hugged and kissed (Hawaiian customary gestures) all volunteers too, and he thanked us.
The Advantages of the Fair
According to the applicants themselves, the fair was such a great project. It just didn’t assured them of getting the citizenship, but likewise, they were confident they did things correctly and lawfully.
My participation in the fair, more than the administrative side of it, was the privilege of helping fellow Filipinos understand some critical terminologies of American civic and history required in the application of citizenship and naturalization. I translated Oath of Allegiance; What are the needs to bear arms for our nation and when, and the importance along with the benefits of being lawful citizens of the United States of America.
When I got home, I felt I was floating in the air. It wasn’t because, I was carrying a hefty bento. But for the joy of knowing, I came handy to fellow Pinoys.
I felt privileged shaking the hands of my fellows, who were brave enough to leave our native country, because they all want the best for their families. Their smiles and “thank yous” were precious–I will always cherish them for the rest of my life.
I am proud of my HPA (Hawaii Paralegal Association) colleagues Elton Johnson, Juanita Warren, Joel Murukami, and Cheryl Anne Satterfield, who always volunteered to most pro bono opportunities here in Hawaii. Most of us still do the Honolulu Citizenship Fair, yearly, every May, and the fair is now managed by the Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center and the Office of Honolulu Representative, Cong. Colleen Hanabusa.
To me, intelligence is something that can be acquired, or cultivated. But our attitude; our hearts, or how we deal in life, how we treat others and how we unselfishly give ourselves to things that we literally won’t have returns, are things that only come by nature. For when we give, we should never expect reciprocity. The person you help might not thank you for your efforts, but what matters is that you are happy that you are able to give, for not all can. Take good deeds as deposits to your heaven’s accounts. For GOD is alive and HE sees us all. HE returns good deed in hundred folds.
Most will say Pro Bono is just for those who have so much to give. Some may say, they can only give, if they have a spare to share. But what truly is nobler, is to give despite limited means, and in not so well conditions. Because it shows, regardless of what we have on our “plates” and how we barely we have in our hands, we can still do good deeds and spread good deeds.
So brace the challenges of volunteering; give back to the community even just a portion of what you have been blessed. For an ample minute of your time, or a pinch of your blessings, could surely go along way to the lives of the needy ones you’d touch and help.