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Able to Laugh Again

The Philippines

TFI volunteers in the Philippines have visited a home for abandoned elderly women several times over the past few years, and we recently increased our visits to once a month. Our five boys sing to the women, which not only makes them very happy, but also inspires the Catholic nuns and volunteers who care for them. Then we make the rounds, talking and praying with the women.

Some of the women were abandoned by their families, while others are very old or sick and some are losing their mental faculties. Every one of them has a story to tell.

During our last visit, while we were seating the women for the boys’ presentation, I helped a woman who seemed too weak to make it from her room on her own. When I discovered that she came from a province that speaks the same dialect that I speak, I started a conversation in that dialect.

She told me of her traumatic past—how she had come from a prominent family (her father had been a judge and her mother the director of a hospital) and how her parents had both been murdered as they were celebrating her 30th birthday. After that tragedy, her relatives had changed her name and hidden her for years, for fear that the people who killed her parents would kill her too. A few months ago, in declining health, she had moved into the center we were visiting.

She said through her tears that she sometimes wishes that she had died with her parents. I tried to encourage her that the Lord must have had a very good reason for letting her survive that incident, and assured her of His love. She calmed down and finally said that perhaps the reason she had survived was because the Lord wanted her to help and be a comfort to others. When the boys sang, she enjoyed their performance very much. She smiled, laughed, and said, “This is the first time that I have laughed in a long time!”

Sometimes we wonder if the things we do for others, like visiting this home for the elderly, really make a difference. But we do make a difference. We made a difference to this dear woman. Our boys’ happy songs made her laugh again.

Originally Published in 2007.