Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Investing in things that count

Sometimes it is not what we want that bears the richest blessings, but where we are sent that makes the difference.

THERE must be moments in our life when we pass by, say, a high-end store, and wish that we could pick up the latest electronic gadget without even thinking about the price.

The young father who wants the best education for his son may be convinced that the correct route is through a private or international school, if only he has a million ringgit to spare.

Day by day, we may wish for a lot of things. But aren’t we thankful that we do not always get our prayers answered?

The August month on the calendar in my office has a poem supposedly written by an unknown Confederate soldier. Titled “Prayers and Answers”, it includes the following verses:

“I asked for strength, that I might achieve. I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
“I asked for riches, that I might be happy. I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

“I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.”

A friend gave up a nice job in the city to “Teach for Malaysia” in a rural school. The stories she shares regularly on Facebook are truly touching.

The first time I met her was at Fraser’s Hill some years back, when I was one of the facilitators at a writers’ camp.

While the purpose was to teach them to write well, I also told them that I would not expect them to eventually become journalists.

What is more important, I said, is to have a passion for life and a desire to make a difference wherever one is placed.

This friend did go through a stint in journalism but I now see her blooming in her real calling, which is to teach – not to the children of the rich and famous at some private school – but children who still struggle with the basic necessities of life.

The skills she honed as a communicator have allowed her to be practical and creative in teaching these children even the simplest of words. Here is a recent example:

  •   She draws a picture of a globe.
  •   Students: World!
  •   Teacher: Very good! Another word that starts with “E”? We learned it recently.
  •   Student: Earth!
  •   Teacher: Ada nampak telinga dalam perkataan ini? (Do you see another word in ‘Earth’?)
  •   Student: EAR! Ear! Ear!
  •   Teacher: *smiling ear to ear* Thank you, Class!
 I should add that this is a Form One class whose standard of English has recently been diagnosed at Level 1.
It is a long haul, certainly, but my friend perseveres.

Meanwhile, another friend is doing something similar among the refugee community somewhere in Chad. Back on home leave, she showed me a clip of the children learning the alphabet by writing on the sand of an outdoor classroom.

These two young women gave up the comfort of home to venture into places where there are no high-end stores and where richness is definitely not measured by material possessions.

In places like this, strength, power and riches do not matter. Faith, hope and love are what really count.

SUNDAY STARTERS BY SOO EWE JIN

> Soo Ewe Jin (ewejin@thestar.com.my), in this season of Merdeka, salutes the many people, unknown and unseen, making a difference in many parts of our country.

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