You can Lead a Horse to Water, but you can’t make it Drink

A modern-day axiom that dates back hundreds of years, it’s an immutable fact. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Likewise, you can present an opportunity to someone, but you can’t make them act on it. Over almost the entirety of the last 30 years, I’ve presented opportunities to people who simply refuse to act on them.

Educational Opportunities

I met my would-be wife almost 30 years ago (June, 1983) and since then, I’ve presented opportunities to her parents’ family as well as my own. Not only did I put my own children through school (one through college), but I funded the education of nearly all of my nieces and nephews and even a couple of brothers-in-law and a couple of sisters-in-law (regardless of where I lived at the time).

No, I didn’t just pay for enrollment (which is how it’s done in the Philippines), but I paid for uniforms, shoes and school supplies. Correction: Both me and my wife paid for them after we were married in 1985.

The whole purpose in doing all this was so that they could make a life for themselves after schooling, a life better than what their parents had. Job opportunities would present themselves to the educated many more times than the uneducated.

Job Opportunities

It’s too early to tell what’s going to happen with those that are still in school. As for the rest, with the exception of maybe three nephews, the rest of my wife’s parents’ family have squandered their education in favor of… well, nothing. The two sisters-in-law decided they’d rather make babies than work and the rest of them just gave up on work altogether. Of course, I’ve been trying to figure out why my brothers-in-law thought they could raise families without having employment of any kind, subsisting by the grace of their mother (my mother-in-law), who’s merely drawing a social security pension (and our support when we could help).

Three of my nephews have either a college or a vocational education and all three of them are currently employed. I have no idea what happened to the rest of them and I guess it doesn’t matter anymore because I’m done with all that.

My younger son, with a college degree in hand since 2011, still hasn’t figured out what he’s going to do and he’s the real reason I’m moving back to the United States. It appears I’m going to have to lead that horse but then again, I won’t be able to make him drink the water.

You see, my wife lived with her parents’ family (parents and siblings) for a small part of her pre-adult life, spending much more time living with a grandmother (until her grandmother died) and an aunt and uncle in another province, acting as a maid. Despite all that, she felt an obligation to help them even when the feeling was never reciprocated.

Opportunities Lost

I have to side with my wife on this: It is much more important to support our son until he becomes self-sufficient than wait for her side of the family to even try to live without any help.

She and I are not responsible for her siblings and definitely not responsible for their offspring, even though they seem to think we are. Our good natures and hospitality has been abused far too long and it’s time for the cycle to end. Even if we didn’t have a son to think about, the cycle has to end. Based on my own observations, we would eventually have great-nieces and great-nephews to contend with, with even more of an expectation of support.

Granted, their problems are not entirely their faults (you’ll have to read other articles to find out about their history), but their problems are not our problems. Now, this isn’t some realization that I or my wife suddenly came to. I’ve been asking these people the same questions for the past seven years. What would you do if I wasn’t around anymore? What would you do if your mother (my mother-in-law) wasn’t around anymore. She’s old and she isn’t going to live forever. I could die in a plane crash or something tomorrow. What exactly would you do? And yes, in both English and Tagalog.

Listen, I gave all of these people (including my younger son) more than one opportunity each to better their stations in life. It isn’t my fault if they didn’t act on them and I don’t feel guilty about leaving them to fend for themselves. Not at all.


3 Responses to “You can Lead a Horse to Water, but you can’t make it Drink”

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  1. blackdove says:

    “What exactly would you do? And yes, in both English and Tagalog.”

    What were the answers? I’m guessing, the shrugging of shoulders?

  2. Renate says:

    I think it always depends on the personality. Some people won’t take action, even if all the opportunities are standing before them….