|photo by Ojie Vergara|
"Do you want to have a chopsuey life?", she sternly asked me.
Sister Poyee, my 68 year old mentor can be brutally frank to a hilt. Sugar coating is not in her vocabulary. She doesn't swerve here and there when she needs to make a correction. She goes straight to the point and serves it cold.
"I cannot tolerate mediocrity that's why I don't work with ordinary people.", she explained.
"I can spot the ore and bring out the gold in people but they have to be willing to be trained."
Her training though is one which will make even the toughest ones cry.
One time, she made me go around the stretch of Tomas Morato Avenue selling some kind of contraption.
"The heart of any organization is sales. If you cannot sell, you will have to close shop.", she told me after two long days of knocking on doors.
Knowing that I don't have the courage to sell the idea of a non-profit organization for persons with disability yet, she went with me to every single meeting and spoke to key people we need to bring to our side. She met with parents, teachers, marketing executives, website developers and volunteers. She was building a team while I merely looked on.
"Why are you so scared of knocking on doors?", she would ask.
"If your intention is pure and if you believe in your cause then you will definitely get a yes- even from a stranger. And so what if you get a no, just knock on another door.", she would constantly remind me.
For a year, while we were doing the groundwork for the organization, we had a ritual. Every Monday morning after meditation class, we would have coffee and she'll share her stories of old. Then, she would ask me the questions I deem too huge for me like, "Don't you want to help humanity?" or questions I try to evade such as "Ask your heart, what is it that you truly want?".
Then, when my distractibility gets in the way of that one thing I want, she would nudge me back albeit quite sternly.
Recently, I understood why she had to use tough love on me. She only had few Mondays to spare. Last week, she departed suddenly that I didn't get to say goodbye.
Our last conversation though was the ending I have always envisioned. "Congratulations, you and the Special Achievers team made it happen.", she happily greeted me. (She was on leave from the organization for a year so she can take care of her health.)
"You jumpstarted the whole thing! The credit goes to you.", I quickly replied.
This is the part I failed to tell her though, "Thank you Sister Poyee for spotting the ore in me and helping me bring out the gold. The process was not easy but it was well worth it. I will forever be grateful."