By FR. ROLANDO V. DELA ROSA, O.P.
Do you know that helping others is one of the best ways to live a life that is not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful? Neuroscientists say that altruism activatessome parts of the brain, which release hormones that produce a sense of well-being.
They conclude: “Experiments show that altruism is hardwired in the brain—and it’s pleasurable.”
This is perhaps why the Chinese have a saying: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
Rodolfo Clemente Elepaño recently passed away at the age of 84, but he was one person who not only helped others, but raised altruism to a higher level. He did his charitable works in secret. For he believed that nothing is more fulfilling than doing good secretly and being found out by accident.
During Rodolfo’s funeral, his family and relatives were quite surprised at the number of people who attended the wake, each of whom had stories to tell about Rodolfo’s generosity and kindness.
One woman said that Rodolfo had lent her husband several millions of pesos to start a business. But her husband suddenly disappeared and she was left with nothing but a huge debt to pay and several children to feed. She asked Rodolfo some time to pay the debt. Seeing the pitiful situation of the woman and her small children, he simply wrote off the debt. She was so surprised to learn that Rodolfo’s own family did not even know about the help he had extended to her.
Various groups of religious sisters also came during the funeral and held vigil for several nights, praying for the eternal repose of Rodolfo. One group manages Villa Maria, a hospice established and financed by Rodolfo for old and sick women, who are mostly abandoned by their own families. A part of this hospice also serves as an orphanage. During the last day of the wake, children from the orphanage came, bearing a flower which they laid on his coffin.
Priests who came to celebrate the mass also talked about how Rodolfo had helped them with their financial difficulties while in the seminary. They vouched that whenever their ministry required some additional expense, they ran to Rodolfo who never denied their requests.
Rodolfo’s secret advocacy is in dire contrast to the way big corporations and rich business magnates advertise their so-called acts of “corporate social responsibility.” His unwillingness to broadcast his good deeds must have been his way of putting into action what Jesus said:
“When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt. 6:1-4).
Helping others in secret help us curb our selfishness that manifests itself even while we do good. For doing good to others might be nothing more than pride masquerading as pious benevolence.
Secretly helping those in need, especially the ones who cannot give anything back, is a form of asceticism. It disciplines our mind and focuses our intention on the giving, not on the praise that we expect to come after. After all, what can we give that we have not previously received?
Rodolfo’s sister Gilda Elepaño Pico delivered this touching eulogy for Rodolfo before he was finally laid to rest: “I am honored to pay tribute to a man who embodied the finest qualities that every parent would want their sons to have. He taught us the lesson that there is no substitute for hard work, commitment, and integrity, values that he practiced, not only in business but were central in the way he lived his life.
“Above all, he lived for others, sometimes putting their welfare and needs ahead of his. There is so much to say about him, but to me, one word says it all—he was a GOOD man. I am sure he will be remembered, but right now, we already miss him.”