Our personal values and how we take care of ourselves can also translate into how we take care of our external environment. For this reason, I’d like to tackle this topic on two levels: first, at the personal level where it all starts and second, at the city level.
For many of us, we ring in the New Year with our own set of goals and milestones to achieve. Mine includes getting rid of toxins around me, namely: (1) substances, (2) events and life situations, and (3) toxic people.
The first one, toxic substances, is easy for me to get rid of as I have never liked alcohol, nicotine or other damaging substances to begin with.
The second one, events and life situations, would more or less require some adaptability. Life doesn’t always go on a pre-determined, linear flow where things go the way you planned them. Sometimes life throws some curved balls – challenges or surprises along the way. How people respond to these challenges (or our own obstacle course) would determine if one is able to survive or indefinitely spiral downwards.
There are those who, no matter how tough their life has been, would always keep their head above water. In the most ferocious storms of their lives, they have the ability to focus, persevere and swim upwards till they reach the shore. They’d do it even if there are sharks or even if the shore is seemingly too far away. Perhaps they were able to develop this while growing up in a tough, uncaring family or neighbourhood environment. On the other hand, there are also those who crumble at the slightest challenge. Perhaps they have been sheltered all their lives and have not been able to learn how to fight for themselves.
But the “fight response” is a learned behaviour – it can be learned. When people assert what they believe in and show others they are no doormat, they have made the first step towards picking themselves up, standing up and charting their own destiny. Others may judge them all they want but none of these matter. What matters is what the person thinks of himself or herself.
The last one, toxic people, just like garbage, are not meant to be kept but to be thrown away. We can forgive and forget but there are limits and once these limits are reached, we can decide to let go and move on. There are people out there who believe in us, inspire, and empower us. They’re called real friends. There may be just a few good ones but they are a treasure to hold and to keep.
Applying these same things to the city or community level, we can also do our own cleaning up. Dumaguete has been named by the Philippine Retirement Authority as the Best Place to Retire in 2018, besting Cebu and Bacolod. Further, it has been conferred an award by the Department of Trade and Industry as the 2nd Most Efficient City to Do Business in. Thus, keeping the city clean and free from garbage and litter would be a must. We have a growing number of local and foreign tourists arriving every day. Imagine their disappointment if they see garbage strewn here and there. Providing trash cans around the city and regular garbage collection perhaps three times a week would be a very good way to start. In commercial areas, these garbage cans ensure people would have easy access to them and could throw their own litter themselves. We may already be practicing the “reduce, re-use and recycle” method, but these can still be taken several notches higher in grade schools and high schools where students are taught how to do it and where schools provide garbage cans with “organic” or “recyclable” labels. Cleaning our parks and shore lines could be a good activity for students and regular groups of people. Perhaps four days a month could be designated as “clean-up day” and employees, students or members of civic organizations can take turns cleaning the public areas until everyone has truly imbibed the habit. Dumaguete, after all, is our home. And we want to keep it as clean and free from garbage and toxins as possible.