We tend to usually associate or pay more attention to heroics and great human fortitude by big names, celebrities and high-achieving athletes. Like the two guys who climbed the never-before-ascended El Kapitan rock face at the U.S. Yosemite National Park last month. Yet, from the people close to us and those ordinary folks we see everyday, if we pay attention enough, and see with our hearts, we can learn and draw great inspiration and strength from the indomitable human spirit that springs from their beating hearts.
I have 3 little stories to tell.
For some of you who lived or frequented Kota Kinabalu in the mid 80s, you would have met an old (70s) Chinese couple going around the coffee shops selling ma piau (lottery). For years as I was driving to work I would see this loving duo hand in hand walking, and during rainy seasons, brave the rains, towards KK to do their daily round of selling. In time I saw them resorting to using walking sticks, still hand in hand, slowly going to work. Until one day, I notice the old girl did not have her partner anymore by her side. Died? Must have. Still, for many years, she would travel the same route, now bent and leaning more on the cane, going to KK. Can you imagine? If you lost your beloved of 50 or more years—the walks and the journeys you traverse together, the friendship, the warm dependable presence of the Other – would you have the desire anymore?
In the 90s, I drove to work from Inanam to Kota Kinabalu daily (still do) following Jalan Tuaran. Some of you that did this may also have noticed in the mornings at the traffic lights near Basel Church Likas a blind guy alighting from a bus, and in his arms is a small girl in kindergarten uniform. So he would stand ready to cross the (it was already busy then) road, carrying (presumably) his daughter. For two years, every morning passing by the traffic lights I marvelled at the braveness and the unerring belief of this blind man that he can keep his daughter safe. And the love to do right by his daughter. Tap tap tap. The daughter must be mid 20s by now and I hope she is doing right by her dad.
I knew somebody close to me who has a tragic family life to tell. When he got married, as like any other newly-married couple, he and his lovely wife was eager to start a family. True enough, a beautiful child was born to the family. What happy excitement for dad and mom. And to us, close family members. We celebrated full moon birthday. Utterly sadly, baby died a few months old after struggling in and out of hospitals. I can only imagine their deep sadness. And then in subsequent years, as they tried to have a family, this loving couple lost two more babies, the last one a mere 8-months old boy (the oldest of the 3). Congenital heart defects the doctors said. This was utterly tragic and no words will describe the great pain that the parents must have felt. Somebody said that the deepest pain a person can feel is when she/he has to bury her/his child. I agree. Still, knowing them until today, I can draw utmost inspiration from the way that they went on with their lives – to go on living, to smile, to continue to work, to be loving to each other, and to go on trusting God. I sometimes imagined if I was in that situation: I would have turned into the emotional equivalent of blackened unmoving jelly; I would have blamed God.
(Di, if you are reading this, call me anytime.)