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So Aunty, So What?

Published: Wednesday September 10, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday September 10, 2014 MYT 7:19:13 AM

The awesomeness of ordinary folk

Regular people often do great things, big and small, and that makes them great.

MY previous column about the goodness of ordinary people, based on the random acts of kindness I experienced from strangers, touched a chord in many readers who wrote back to share their own happy encounters.

Along the way, several readers also revealed things about themselves which brings me to today’s topic: the awesomeness of ordinary people!!!

Yes, three exclamation marks and a word straight out of Kungfu Panda. But to me, it captures the extraordinary things that so-called ordinary people do without any fanfare or need for glory.

Whenever I write about caring for my parents, I get very nice e-mails of praise. Much as I appreciate them, I am also a little embarrassed because I know there are many others doing the same thing. I am only fortunate to have a column in a national newspaper to share my thoughts and experiences.

I am also lucky that my parents are living with me. Other children have a harder time looking after their parents who live apart from them. This is why, to me, someone like Thayar from Seremban is awesome.

This is what she wrote:

“I am in the midst of packing to leave for Seremban to fulfil my alternate week responsibility with my elderly parents, aged 86 and 91. I suddenly remembered I had wanted to respond to your article ‘The goodness of ordinary folk.

“I agree with the fishmonger that your mum shouldn’t go to the market anymore to buy fish. We had to make that decision with my father, who loved doing the marketing. It was the one time in the week when he met his old chums the fishmongers and could chat for a while. They had known each other for years and had a common love – fish!

“The challenge was how to keep Father still feeling he had an important part to play in the running of the home even though he was not to do the marketing anymore. Your mother will need to feel the same.

“With our father, he tells us what fish to buy and how much. After the maid has cleaned the fish, Papa decides how much goes into each plastic bag before arranging them in the freezer. He does it very slowly but he feels valued as an important part of the household.

“I normally spend three or four days with them when it is my turn to be in Seremban. It allows me the time to chat and interact with my parents patiently apart from doing the marketing and groceries, paying bills, etc.

“It is a conscious choice to do so and possible only because of an understanding husband. And knowing that there comes a time in our lives when something has a much greater priority over other pursuits.”

High five, Thaya!

Another reader wrote in about how his wife has such a natural way of connecting with people, be it a fast food cashier, supermarket security guard or chicken rice seller, that she brings out the goodness in them.

“What I am trying to say is people are generally nice if we take the time to get to know them. I am optimistic that we can mend the current rift if we extend our hand in friendship.

“Some may take it and some may not. Doesn’t matter. But it starts with each one of us,” wrote Seow.

That started an online conversation and I have since learned that Seow is amazing in his own right.

He is a plantation expert who has developed 40,000 acres of oil palm. That has led him to the jungles of Kalimantan and more recently, developing an organic farm in Fiji, which is where he showed his awesomeness:

“I was on a trip to Fiji to look for a piece of farm land for a foreign investor. Had to trudge barefoot crossing three streams into this village nestled in a forest not far from a road.

“In the midst of talking to the village chiefs, we asked them what they needed. They asked us to get a road to their village. During the bouts of rain, the streams overflowed and their access to the road was cut off. They couldn’t sell their crops, their children couldn’t go to school. Had a few drownings too. They had been appealing to the district officer (DO) for one-and-a-half years to no avail.

“So I dropped by the DO’s office and said I was a foreign investor with interest in the village but there was no road access. Told him our farm would be a showcase in Fiji and VIPs would visit regularly, maybe even his PM. Miraculously, he found the budget to build the road within two months of my visit.

“When the villagers found out from the district office that I was there, they were ecstatic. It’s a funny story, I know, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.”

I asked Seow to let us tell about his amazing Fiji adventure but he demurred, saying the story was still developing because “we are working with the Prisons Department there on their farming rehab programme. Planting is coming in November so it will get busy”.

My apologies to Seow for jumping the gun a bit but I cannot resist sharing his story so far.

I hope he continues to keep in touch with me like another reader S.B. Lee, whose witty and humorous emails often cheer me up.

Lee is another awesome person – she is a highly qualified nurse who is still active after her retirement. She attends diabetic conferences overseas, coordinates drug trials and writes a blog to dispense advice to nurses. Oh, and she shares healthy recipes with me.

In an e-mail sent in June, she shared her own care-giving story: “My late mom was warded in Kulim ICU for a week before she passed away last year. I was by her bedside daily, recalling how I had survived the years of shift duties in surgical wards and the casualty unit. I was just glad that I had the chance to nurse her and hold her hands when she breathed her last.”

There are other awesome ones who have touched my life like Dr Siva, a scientist who works with insects for the benefit of the palm oil industry, bank officer Sarah who carries small packets of dog biscuits and cat food to give to strays she comes across and 17-year-old Khen, who can’t wait to vote in the next general election.

It is the opportunity to know such wonderful people that makes writing a regular column so rewarding. The funny thing is they think I am awesome but truly, it’s the other way round.

> Actor Jimmy Stewart said: “Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.” Aunty agrees and would like to add: Better yet as friends. Send feedback to junewong@thestar.com.my.

Tags / Keywords: Extraordinary, ordinary, people

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