The Power of Little Things to make Big Changes

Kerygma Magazine, January 2012

I was driving along Paseo de Roxas at around five-thirty in the afternoon. I was on my way to Mandaluyong to give a talk to a company that bought 1,000 copies of my book,  12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country. They were celebrating their 50th foundation anniversary and Christmas party.

Traffic seemed heavier than usual. As I looked further ahead, I saw why the vehicles were slowing down. A car was stalled in the middle of the street. A man, presumably the driver, was trying to get a cab or some help. Unfortunately, as it was rush hour, all the vehicles just passed him by. The first thing that came to my mind was of a friend who died of a heart attack in his car.

So when I came by the stalled vehicle, I decided to stop, pulled down my window and asked the driver, “Is it an emergency?” “Yes,” he replied with no hesitation. Then he opened the passenger door of the stalled car where an old man came out. The driver opened the rear door of my car to let in his “boss.” “Thank you so much. You are God-sent. I have to be in Malacañang by 7 p.m. to attend astate dinner,” said the man as he sat at the back of my car. I took a quick glance at my passenger from the rear-view mirror.

He looked familiar but I couldn’t completely identify him. As we drove off, my backseat passenger asked for my name and offered to shake my hand. “My name is Alex,” I simply said. He then handed me his business card saying, “I’m Max.”

His business card read: Maximo V. Soliven, Chairman of the Board and Publisher, Philippine Star. I turned my head and exclaimed, “Wow! What a great honor to have you in my car! I read your article every day!” That started our casual conversation on a variety of topics. I felt so ecstatic talking with a great journalist and publisher.

Our conversation continued as we navigated the length of EDSA. I told him about the small book I wrote and revealed to him that around five years ago, my wife and I thought of leaving the country. We felt that the Philippines was not improving; in fact, it was getting worse every year.

We wanted a better environment and a better future for our three children. But after deliberating about it for almost a year, we eventually decided to stay. We decided to continue living here and raise all our children in our country.

“Why did you write this book?” asked Mr. Soliven. I am a writer, although not a very good one or a known one, but yes, I am a writer. So I thought that perhaps this is the small talent God gave me that I can contribute to help our country.

I told him that my motivation in writing the book was simply to see a better Philippines someday. I wanted to give our people an idea on how we can help our country even through little things or small acts. I believe that a person or a Filipino can be a patriot or a hero, even through small deeds of love. Mr. Soliven asked for a copy of the book as well as my autograph.

When I dropped him at his Greenhills house, he said something that I still remember to this day, “I am glad to know a Filipino like you, especially in our times today.”

After I left him at his house, I thought that was it.

But four days after our fateful meeting, I woke up to the constant ringing of my mobile phone. “I read about you in Max Soliven’s article in the Philippine Star today,” said the voice on the other line. When I ended the call,

I noticed that my phone’s inbox was filled with text messages. Most of the messages praised me for what I did. My email box that morning was also filled with messages on the same subject. I received a lot of queries as to where they could buy my book. I realized at that moment that Max actually read my book. He wrote about it and our chance meeting in his column that day. He entitled it “A Filipino of Faith.”

After that article was published, I started receiving many speaking invitations from all over the country. In 2006 alone, I must have received more than 300. There were many days that I spoke for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all in one day.

My book sales and my speaking engagements took off the ground like an airplane. To me it was obvious. God sent Max Soliven to help me spread and bring the book’s message to so many of our people.

To cut a long story short, Max Soliven’s newspaper article gave my book so much marketing exposure at no cost. And all I did was help a man who needed a ride!

The Power of Little Things

I wrote about 12 little things in my book that every Filipino can do. They are simple things that can bring about changes that could make big positive results. These 12 things are:

1. Follow traffic rules. Follow the law.

2. Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always

ask for an official receipt.

3. Don’t buy smuggled goods. Buy local. Buy

Filipino.

4. When you talk to others, especially foreigners,

speak positively about us and our country

5. Respect your traffic officer, policeman and

soldier.

6. Do not litter. Dispose your garbage

properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve.

7. Support your church.

8. During elections, do your solemn duty.

9. Pay your employees well.

10. Pay your taxes.

11. Adopt a scholar or a poor child.

12. Be a good parent. Teach your kids to follow

the law and love our country.

This book is my humble way of promoting God’s two highest commandments: to love God and to love our neighbor. Each of the 12 little things in the book contains love of neighbor. For instance, when you follow traffic rules, the love of neighbor is there.

When you support a scholar, the love of neighbor is there.  Inspired by the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, I have written other versions of my book now, such as for the youth, for senior citizens, global Filipinos. I am currently finishing the versions for parents and public servants.

Other Change Advocacies for a Better Philippines

Changes in our country will not happen overnight.

But every small act we do will lead us closer to the “better” Philippines that we all dream for our children and ourselves. History shows the same pattern with other countries. Lee Kuan Yew was not able to bring progress to Singapore during the first six years of his rule. The same happened with Mahathir Mohammed of Malaysia and Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

Despite the negative news and issues hounding our country, I still believe in what the Filipino can do. An ordinary Filipino, wherever he is, can help build the image of our country and its people. We can all be great in the eyes of our own countrymen and of the world. In Kabayanihan Foundation, we endeavor to promote a culture of greatness for the Filipinos.

Each one of us should answer a very important question: “What can we do as a people?”

Every Filipino is part of the solution and should be made part of the solution. Every family or company or organization should become part of the answer. We are all part of the hope of our country.

The youth have their own list of little things they can do. Our overseas Filipinos should have their own list of “little things,” too. Our public servants should also have their own list.

It’s amazing how a simple gesture of giving a ride to someone in need led to other wonderful things. The small changes we do every day would soon bring about the big changes we all seek — with a lot of grace from the Lord.