While I breathe, I hope

I have the weirdest-sounding column ID—Dum spiro, spero—and you can scan around other column IDs to see what I mean. Although it sounds like a Harry Potter spell, it isn’t—but it carries just as much power that can change our lives for the better (no matter how corny it sounds). Dum spiro, spero is a Latin term that translates to one of the most unique and striking proverbs that led me into discovering what I really wanted to do in life: While I breathe, I hope.


I’ve always had my goals set before me: I’m going to work at a leading news network and take part in eye-opening documentaries. But sometimes I get stumped thinking, if I have achieved those things (and I hope I do), then what would happen next? I fall into a chilling void as I encounter the most mystifying question encountered: What am I actually living for? (cue confused Jackie Chan meme).

Kidding aside, I figured out my answer when I scroll down my Facebook timeline and I witness the stories of people who are barely living enough times to ask that same question; the people affected by the famine in Somalia, the civil war in Syria, dictatorship in North Korea, and the drug war in the Philippines. Beyond the confines of these horrid issues, we witness injustice and poverty in all its simplest and often overlooked forms even in our own community, and all these issues pile up to fester in the shadows of the supposedly beautiful world we live in. It is the world where we spoil ourselves and compete against one another in the name of riches, power, and fame that we never think is enough.

I never actually cared about these big social issues back then mainly because it takes a good lot of time to understand them and even if I knew about them, what could I, an ordinary college girl, possibly do about famine and war? Maybe the impossibility to solve such big social issues is the reason why the same question gets stuck in our millennial minds. But perhaps for us to reduce our bystander effect on pressing issues such as these is to put things in a simpler perspective: people are hungry, people are thirsty, people are fighting, and people are suppressed. In our own little worlds, these are simple problems, but they are also the hardest to solve if you look at the bigger picture.

I basically have everything an ordinary (lucky) person has: I have a family, I don’t sleep hungry (unless on a diet), I have a safe home, and although I encounter problems, it’s not something that I don’t get by for a day. And this is when I figured what I really want to do in life: for so long I’ve lived my life for myself, and I think it’s time to give a little bit of mine for others who are barely getting by in life. From little acts in your own community and helping the needy, to stepping up to face risks and visiting famine-stricken places in far-flung areas—these little actions will not only benefit these people, but actually help rebuild humanity. Whether you put it in a religious or secular perspective, the fulfillment of living is not measured by the success of our careers and our personal agendas, but by offering a part of our life to fulfill another’s.

Hope drives humanity and maybe that’s the reason the proverb Dum spiro, spero got stuck in my head. In this world of extremism and prejudice, it’s the people who suffer the most. We carry the problems that make everyone weak on their knees and often feel hopeless—but no one else will or can help people but people. Everywhere, people are in need, and we can contribute so much to solve the problems of humanity by using hope to fuel our actions—as long as we breathe.