DESPITE having undergone a heart surgery recently and still feeling pain in his chest, Pakcik Drahman took pains to help his wife make some cakes for me for Christmas.
He had been calling me repeatedly three days before Dec 25, reminding me that it was Christmas and that he wanted me to go to his house to collect the cakes he and his wife Hamdia had prepared.
Drahman, in his 60s, and Hamdia, in her late 50s, are a childless couple living in Kampung Padang Kerbau. They have an adopted child with celebral palsy, Siti Rashidah, now aged seven.
Drahman and Hamdia have been making cakes for me every Christmas ever since I knew them more than two years ago and started writing about the plight of little Siti. The couple also sent me a prayer via SMS early on Tuesday, shortly after I came back from a Christmas mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Miri.
The text message read, “Terima kasih atas jasa kamu kepada saya dan keluarga saya. Tuhan sahaja yang tahu doa kamu kepada keluarga saya. Saya doa supaya kamu baik and selamat selalu dan Tuhan panjangkan umur kamu.”
Drahman’s prayer was one of thanks and he prayed that I would be blessed by God with good tidings and long life.
He has been telling me over the past two years that he considered me as part of his family. I feel blessed enough already that Drahman and family have such care and concern for me.
The kind gesture and prayer that Drahman and wife offered me reminded me of a kind lonely old man I knew many years ago, Pakcik Dahlan, a Malay man living in a dilapidated hut with his aged wife near the Ang Cheng Ho quarry in Kuching.
I wrote about Dahlan in my column during Christmas last year.
I cannot help but be reminded every Christmas that simple gestures like kindness and companionship we offer to others who are in need can make a great difference in people’s lives and we will be repaid with great joy and satisfaction even after the passage of time.
However, it is sad that there are still many people in our society who do not see this and still view the world from a very materialistic perspective.
On Christmas Day, after the mass I went to the Miri Old Folks Home. I was expecting a big crowd of visitors. But no, the place was empty and I noticed the residents sitting in the rooms and along the corridors looking sad.
The only visitors were a woman and her two teenage children, who brought along a few plastic bags of food. An old man told me that Christmas at the home this year had been very quiet with very few visitors.
There were only three or four visitors on Christmas, he said, pointing out that the weeks before Christmas were also unusually quiet with very few visits by organisations or individuals.
“Maybe the economy is bad. People do not come to see us because they have no money,” he said.
I saw the sadness in his eyes. He was trying to console himself. Similar tinge of sadness was also felt at the Miri Blind Centre, not far from the Old Folks Home.
The blind residents too did not get many Christmas visitors. This is really disheartening.
Society at large must not view Christmas in such a materialistic way. Even with no money to buy food or presents, people should still visit the old folk, the blind, the orphans and others in need.
Go and offer friendship and companionship.
The real spirit of Christmas is what we offer from our hearts, not from our wallets. Jesus Christ came into the world empty-handed. Born in a humble shed in a lonely place in Bethlehem surrounded by sheep, donkeys and cows, His entry into the world was unceremonious.
However, He showed the world the true meaning of what it means to love by the way He loved the blind, the handicapped, those afflicted by leprosy and those who had sinned, including those who ended up crucifying Him.
Jesus Christ had no money to give anyone, but His heart. And that is more than enough.
My greatest Christmas adventure was a visit to the Holy Land three weeks before Christmas in 2008, shortly after my mother passed away.
I touched the spot where Christ is believed to have been born.
There is a star covered in gold over that particular spot called The Star of Bethlehem.
The tour guide I met while in the Holy Land asked me how much I spent on the trip.
When I told him I spent more than RM10,000, he said that was a lot of money, much more than he could earn in a year working as a tour guide.
The friendly guide then asked me whether the trip was worth the money.
I told him the most important thing was the joy that I got from the pilgrimage and not so much the money or the logistic difficulties in getting to the Holy Land.
He placed his arm over my shoulder and said, “Yes, indeed. Christmas is about what comes from the heart, not what comes from the wallet.”
The cakes that Pakcik Drahman and his wife gave me for Christmas wasn’t worth much in monetary terms but they are worth more than gold because these simple gifts came from their hearts.