Last week I visited Fr. Bonnie Mendes. He was the Regional Director of Caritas Asia and had retired recently to stay for good in his native land, Pakistan.
I met Fr. Bonnie over a year ago. Ever since, I always admire his simplicity and humility. As an expert veteran of this sojourn called life, he imparted many lessons to us. His sense of humor had not concealed the profound wisdom he has.
He used to offer mass in his office with me and Neil. Those were memorable moments I will forever cherish. Since he is going back to his country, I grabbed the chance to see him. Over dinner, I threw him two questions that I wanted to share to my fellow youngsters.
Question: If there is one advice that you want to give to the youth, what is it?
Very brief answer isn’t it? This is what I like about Fr. Bonnie, his simple outlook manifests on his simplified approach to life’s complexities. With that answer, various interpretations crossed my mind. Maybe he meant we should try to relax and not worry so much on things that we can actually live without. Maybe he meant we should stop pressuring ourselves on attaining the set of goals and standards we’ve laid before us and just let it unfold at the right time, without taking it for granted of course. Maybe he meant we should stop trying to live up to others’ or the societies’ expectations.
Did he just say “relax”? So why was I too busy trying to find depth on such simple advice and allowed myself to wander, almost leaving the present moment? Oh well, relax, relax.
He added, “The youth nowadays doesn’t know how to relax. “It is good to spend a few minutes, even just 15 minutes, each day to just relax, without mobile phones, internet, just be still and be amazed at the difference it can make.” And yes, it does make a lot of difference not just to our state of mind but also to our physical and emotional health.
Neil Rusia, Fr. Bonnie Mendes and Omar Jayag
Question: What do you think is the one thing the youth have ignored these days?
This time, I will not over-analyse. The answer is silence, literally and figuratively, full stop.
We talked about different things under the sky. He taught me to manage my time, prioritise, multi-task and focus so that I will be more productive and efficient in my work. As a young professional, I always value every advice I can get from my seniors.
We also talked about how other people have so much while others struggle to survive. The queen of England for instance has 586 rooms (minus the offices, staterooms and bathrooms) in Buckingham Palace alone whilst many sleep on the streets, not to mention the millions of homeless children!
My work in AFPPD exposed me to gender issues such as gender-based violence. I am particularly concerned with women in South Asia where GBV is very rampant. Although there have been quite a lot of progress in both the private and government sectors’ efforts to address these issues, more still need to be done. As a South Asian, I asked his thoughts and what the situation really is in their region. He said, “the legislations are there but they are not well-implemented.” This is a very sad reality.
He taught me not to regret on the things that I failed to do in the past. He reminded me how pointless it is to say, “I should have”. Things as silly as “I should have bought that” bother us when after some time we will actually forget we had wanted it or at some point we will realize we don’t really need it. He said, “let bygones be bygones.”
Before I went on the train, I told him I’m sorry I had so many questions. He said, “It’s good because it means you are learning”.