Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Pain All Over Again

Pain...that of my heart being ripped. I still feel that pain in my heart as memories of last night flood my mind once again.

It was past 11 and I was driving back from the hospital. I had just left Son No 1 Julian in the ward, arm in cast and not fully out of sedation. Even in that state, he remembered that I had an early trip to Tampin the next morning. He asked me to go back and rest while mum, Jessie, and younger brother, Justin, accompany him a while longer.

I was a spent force. Not from physical exhaustion but mental. I just went through a few hours of excruciating pain in my heart, matching the tearing pain that Julian experienced from a dislocated elbow from a fall in varsity soccer match.

I had shaken my head when I first saw him in the x-ray ward, sitting on wheel chair with his arm bandaged in a splint. How can you Julian? You're so accident prone... these were the thoughts racing through my mind. Even though I did not mouth it, Julian read it.

"I can still move my fingers," he mumbled.

"Great", I retorted.

That opened the floodgates. My 22-year-old was expecting words of comfort but least of all, reprimand, laced with sarcasm. He lashed out, tears rolling down his cheeks. That knocked me back to my senses. How uncaring I had been while seemingly caring.

My mind had been playing back, one by one, the scenes of Julian in hospital since he was still a toddler. The first was when he turned blue in my in-laws' house in Penang. He was admitted and diagnosed to be suffering pneumonia.

The pain came back... how baby Julian had cried his lungs out when at regular intervals, a pipe was put into his mouth to get the phelgm out of his lungs... how he suffered a long needle wound from his buttocks to his thigh as he struggled while the nurse was giving him a jab... how he was getting dehydrated from diarrhoea while being treated from pneumonia...

How I faced the longest night of my life... A family friend consulted a medium without our knowledge and broke the news to us that THAT night was critical. Baby Julian would make it if he managed to make it through the night. Jessie was totally shaken. I flew into a rage. I don't believe in such hocus-pocus. Why! Why? Why tell us this... we didn't ask for it in the first place!!!

The instruction was to give him a drop of holy water every hour during that night. While a non-believer, I religiously went through it. You just can't imagine the relief and the joy to see the sun as dawn broke and replaced the darkness.

It was a beautiful day. And it woke us up from the darkness of ignorance. We decided to discharge him on our own accord and move him to another hospital. There he was immediately put on the drip which the previous hospital consider not necessary even though he was dehydrating.

That was not the one and only hospital episode for Julian. There were many more. As a tiny tot, Julian had to be rushed to hospital several times -- gash on his right eye and several stitches, fish bone lodged in his throat and a steady hand from the doctor to get it out, a deep cut on his lower lip and also several stitches...

All these came flooding back as we waited for the Orthopaedic Surgeon to arrive. He will have to be sedated for the elbow to be "popped" back in place. Later while the Surgeon was going through the procedure, I heard Julian cry out in pain but not as loud as the scream he let out when the Medical Officer in the Emergency Ward had tried to shift his arm to ease the pain.

The pain that we bear each time we see Julian going through all these had made us somewhat protective of him. We tend to curb his adventurous tendencies, but is it getting more and more difficult in his adulthood.

It is out of love and caring for your well being, my son knowing how accident and incident-prone you are. But Julian does listen to reason... like heeding our advice against his choice of hiking Mount Kinabalu for his elective stint as part of his course earlier this year.

May you be blessed with speedy recovery. And no more such pain please... my old heart just can't keep on taking it!

Monday, 23 July 2007

Eating & Living

It is a year today that I became a vegetarian -- a change that stumped many. It has been widely known that I subscribe to the 'live-to-eat" philosophy and my unflattering shape is the result for my love for food.

But what prompted the switch was this video that was screened in a health workshop that I attended on my birthday last year.

I just could not bear watching. For the first time in my life, I closed by eyes and just wished that the video would come to an end soon. Disturbed, I was. Scenes of cruelty to the animals kept on flashing in my mind. How could I put meat into my mouth again?

Friend KC took the words right out of my mouth when he stood up after the screening of this Meet Your Meat video declaring that he's turning vegetarian. He had intended to for sometime and this was just a good a time as any. I had harboured no such prior intentions but it was very strong there and then.

A part of me was not sure. Could I live up to it? What about the family, the inconveniences? What if I have cravings for the bah kut teh, the curry mutton etc etc. The debate went on internally. I was in conflict.

Wife Jessie probably knew what was going on in my mind. She suggested that I tried going for a one-month vegetarian diet just to follow Workshop convenor Jo Ean's recommendation that it can help those with sinus problem. Yeah, a one-month trial! That would be it!

I made the declaration to my lunch mates and the lunch outings with them just became less and less. More and more, I was eating alone at vegetarian restaurants. But it opened up a whole new world to me. I never knew there were so many vegetarians... young ones too. And there were so many vegetarian restaurants too.

The transition was smooth. A month went by and I was certain -- from the trial and supportive wife -- that I will be a vegetarian. No two ways about it.

My decision to turn vegetarian was compassion-driven. The scenes of cruelty to animals opened my eyes to unknown realities and my heart opened up to be filled with compassion. As if being led along this path, I had one night during the one-month trial found myself waiting at the traffic lights next to a lorry with hanging pig carcass. It further turned me off.

While I have had supportive family members and friends, there were also those who taunted me. One disgustingly blew his breath in my face, taunting me to smell the mutton he just had for lunch! Another just teased me with a chicken drumstick.

But surprisingly, I did and do not have cravings. I did and do not miss the food that I so loved. It's a different frame of mind. I now eat to live, to sustain myself. And the benefits? A healthier me that's in greater shape. And also more spiritually at peace, knowing that I am not responsible nor a contributory factor to a life being taken or being tortured.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Ancient Wisdom

Cheng-Li got married and lived with her mother-in-law. In a very short time, Li found that she could not get along with her mother-in-law. She was often angered by many of her mother-in-law's habits. In addition, Li was constantly criticised by her mother-in-law.

Days and weeks passed. Li and her mother-in-law never stopped arguing and fighting. But what made the situation even worse was that, Li had to obey her every wish as a family elder.

One day, Li decided to do something about the unbearable situation. She went to see her father's good friend, Huang, and asked if he would give her some poison so that she could solve the problem once and for all. Huang thought for awhile, and finally said, "Cheng-Li, I will help you solve your problem, but you must listen to me and obey what I tell you."
Li agreed. Huang gave her a package of herbs, telling her that quick-acting poison could not be used because that would cause people to become suspicious. She would need to use herbs that will slowly poison the mother-in-law. Every other day she would need to prepare some delicious meal and put a little of the herbs in her serving. And to make sure that nobody suspects her upon her mother-in-law's death, she must be very careful to act very friendly towards her. "Don't argue with her, obey her every wish, and treat her like a queen, " was Huang's directive.

Li was so happy. She thanked Huang and hurried home to start her plot of murdering her mother-in-law.

Weeks and months went by, and every other day, Li served the specially treated food to her mother-in-law. She remembered what Huang had said about avoiding suspicion, so she controlled her temper, obeyed her mother-in-law, and treated her like her own mother.

After six months, the whole household had changed. Li had controlled her temper so much that she found that she almost never got mad or upset. She had not had an argument with her mother-in-law in six months because the old lady now seemed much kinder and easier to get along with.
The mother-in-law's attitude toward Li changed, and she began to love Li like her own daughter. She kept telling friends and relatives that Li was the best daughter-in-law one could ever find. Li and her mother-in-law were now treating each other like a real mother and daughter.

Li's husband was very happy to see what was happening.

One day, Li hurried to see Huang and asked for his help again.
"Please help me to keep the poison from killing my mother-in-law," she implored Huang. "She's changed into such a nice woman, and I love her like my own mother. I do not want her to die because of the poison I gave her."

Huang smiled and nodded his head. "Cheng-Li, there's nothing to worry about. I never gave you any poison. The herbs I gave you were vitamins to improve her health. The only poison was in your mind and your attitude toward her, but that has been all remedied by the love which you gave to her."

An ancient Chinese story of love overcoming hatred that still holds true today. Hatred is not overcome by hatred but by love. How many a time have we been so wrong by just piling up our heaps and heaps of hatred until we bury the love. How many a time have we just focused on the wrong or irritable tendencies that we do not see the good. It is the negative imprints in the mind that obliterate that inherent good or positiveness of our subject of hatred or anger.

Has it ever occurred that the one we abhor for whatever reason could be adored by someone else? That couldn't be the one and the same person. But it is!

It is the negative imprints which can be removed, layer by layer. All it needs is effort and just like Cheng Li, we can turn hatred into love, with the right effort. I have tried and I am beginning to see the wonders of it.

As in the parting words of the gem of the person who sent me this story of ancient wisdom:
"The person who loves others will also be loved in return."

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Mother and his 50-year-old Little Boy

On this Mother's Day, I reproduce what I penned two years ago of a story of a 50-year-old who felt every way a little boy with his mother. The little boy was me...

"I held her hand and the feeling was so good. With her small hand, clasped in mine, I felt like a little boy again, a 50-year-old little boy.

While I may be offering her a safe hand and security with my firm clasp and a frame that towers over her now frail 85-year-old frame, I am -- to me -- still her little boy.

How long has it been since I last held her hands? How long has it been that I have taken a walk hand in hand with her? I can’t remember. It must have been years, many years. Possibly way, way back when I was a child.

Coming from a conservative Chinese family that is not inclined to being demonstrative in showing affection in public, you can just imagine the surge of emotions, the little-boy joy, the elation at this mother-and-child moment.

I felt warm despite the chill of the Bodhgaya air at dusk on that November day, warm with the bonding and mother’s love. As we drew closer to the entrance of the Mahabodhi Temple with our little steps, I patted her hands and said softly to her, “Ma, I am taking you to see the Buddha”. I did not look at her, fighting shy of the tears – tears of joy -- that had already welled in my eyes.

I could see from the corner of my eyes that she nodded her head. She was quiet, drinking in the serenity and the magic in the air as we ambled down the stairs leading to the main shine that fronts the Bodhi tree that Buddha sat under and gained enlightenment more than 2,500 years ago.

I have made it, my heart cried out. I have realised a wish I had two years ago. I could still remember vividly standing not too far away from where we were. I was then on higher ground viewing the various sites where the Buddha spent the seven weeks following his Enlightenment. What caught my eye then was a daughter from our pilgrimage group doting on her mother. That instant, a thought arose in me that it would be great if I could take my aging mother to this sacred place.

It was as if my wish was heard. At the end of our 2003 pilgrimage, Aloka Foundation Spiritual Director Venerable Mahinda talked of his plan to organise a pilgrimage specially for the elders. With now direct-flight access to Bodhgaya, it would be easier for the old to visit this place where the Buddha gained Enlightenment.

Mother was not receptive. Her old body can’t take the journey, she said. Each time I asked her in my KL-Penang telephone calls, she would brush it aside by saying that 2005 is too far away. She may not be alive by then… was another of her responses.

All it needed was Venerable Mahinda to change her mind. Asked, when she met Bhante at Mahindrama in Penang earlier this year, she responded with an instantaneous affirmative. Her mental frame of mind changed. On her own, she went to apply for her passport. She just gathered strength. Nothing could stop her. Even a bout of old illness which saw her throwing out just days before the trip could not change her mind. She was determined to go the pilgrimage. She was ready for it.

The trip to KL from Penang – which she has not made in the last 15 years or so – and the flight to Yangon and onwards to Bodhgaya was no problem for. Her old legs could make the many walking trips to and fro the Mahayana Hotel to the Maha Bodhi Temple as well as the many times we circumambulated the main shrine as well as the number of times up and down the bus in visits to as many as seven temples in Bodhgaya in a day.

Mother made it. It must be her personal best record, unrivalled in significance, joy, and many other things. I guess it was never in her wildest dream – not in mine too -- that she would be celebrating her 85th birthday on the full moon day in Bodhgaya where she had the opportunity to be blessed by Bhante and Sister Sumitra on the grounds of the Maha Bodhi Temple, offer dana at the Sangikadana attended by 51 Sangha members from the temples in Bodhgaya and a special birthday cake from the Mahayana Hotel management to wrap up an eventful day.

We owe this privilege she had to Bhante, who was instrumental in making this special pilgrimage a reality. It was a pilgrimage with a difference as in the group of 47, there were 13 families – mother, father and daughter; mother and daughters; father and daughter; mother and son; sister and brother; sisters; and husbands and wives. All in all, 13 families made up of 30 individuals.

There was much love going around. Many unscripted acts and outpouring of love, affection and devotion were played out to feast for our eyes and warm out hearts. These were valuable lessons in family bonding and filial piety for family members as well as the single ones present in the pilgrimage.

We were constantly reminded through the un-choreographed heart-rendering acts in this pilgrimage of Buddha’s advice of our duties and the gratitude that we must show to our parents and elders.

In the Anguttara Nikaya: the Buddha had said: "O Bhikkhus! Father and mother are two, to whom however much worldly support is rendered but still falls short of the gratitude due.

"O Bhikkhus! If a man can live for a hundred years and nurse his mother on the right shoulder and his father on the left shoulder throughout his life time, feeding them and doing every other services with his own hands - Bhikkhus! even then the devoted hundred years of service so rendered by the son will not completely repay the debt of his gratitude to his parents.”

I definitely cannot repay the love and sacrifices mother has made for me. But I am grateful -- grateful that she has paved the way for me to receive the Dhamma. It was she who planted the seed in me when she took me to the Penang Buddhist Association when I was 12 and enrolled me in the Dhamma Sunday School. She has given me the greatest gift, the gift that excels all.

This pilgrimage pales in comparison in reciprocating her gift but it is something that I wanted to do for her and I count my blessings for being able to do it.

Mother, thank you for every thing and most of all, thank you for this opportunity to be your 50-year-old little boy. May you be blessed with long life – one lived to the fullest – good health, peace and happiness. And may you at the earliest opportunity achieve Nibbana – there is no other greater wish for you, mother."

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Happiness 101

One moment happiness; the next, sadness. That's the pendulum swing of life that I experienced in the past few weeks. No. More correctly, that's what I have been experiencing throughout my life!

Nevertheless, it was how the events unfurled in the last few weeks that allowed me to see with greater clarity, this true nature of things.

It was happiness travelling to Johor Baru to attend the wedding reception of my niece, Daughter No 1 of Brother No 4, and seeing her the first time in 13 or 14 years. Girl, as we fondly call her, was a picture of bliss in the arms of her man, Aaron. Bro Tony was every inch a proud father. Sis-in-law Linda, who, though looked stressed at the reception, was equally as happy.

The tears and the hugs at the end of the dinner spoke aloud of the joy Girl was in seeing us -- her shu-shu (younger uncle) and shen-shen (aunt) whom she had nearby when she grew up in Kuala Lumpur. I shared that joy too but our time together was limited. I had a long drive to Penang the next morning as I had promised Bro No 2 a ride back so that I can celebrate Vesak with mum as well.

The joy of waking up on Vesak morn in Penang is something I have not experienced in many years. As I offered prayers to the Buddha first thing in the morning at home, mum was out early heading to the temple to help out at the kitchen. Even at 87, she is still an able hand. Later, I fetched her from Penang Buddhist Association for Phor Tay for the late morning prayers. I observed from the back, how able mum was at the front. She fussed over the offerings and made sure they were passed around in an orderly manner and with reverence. Mum, oh mum! I have nothing but reverence and admiration for you.

That blissful moment as prayer began was shattered by the phone. Shucks! Should have put it on silent mode. It was a client and what could it be other than work! She wanted me to call an editor to follow up on an interview arrangement for later in the week, which I refused on account that it was the editor's holiday and it was impolite to do so.

I knew she was not happy. That spoiled my Vesak. How could she be so inconsiderate! It bugged me for the next few days. I carried that around like a boulder round my neck. It weighed me down. I just could not fathom, how I allowed myself to be so affected by this.

The day I got back to work after the holidays, I was informed by her office that she was unhappy and wanted a meeting, possibly to give me a tongue-lashing. That added on to the unhappiness until one morning, while waiting to send Son No 2 to school, I saw the book by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche lying around. I just turned to one of the pages and the chapter "Fulfilling Life's Purpose" caught my attention.

What jumped out at me were his statement that "the purpose of our life is not simply to solve our own problems, to gain happiness for ourselves...each of us has this universal responsibility to bring the greatest happiness to all sentient beings". Yes, but how? There are the inconsiderate. The unkind. The irritants, etc etc etc.

Zopa Rinpoche's answer is simple yet profound. "If you generate compassion in your mind, you will not harm others. Peace and happiness is the absence of harm. By not harming others, you are offering them happiness and peace. So all this peace and happiness that others experience as a result of your compassion has come from you, depends upon you. It is in your hands, because it is up to you whether or not you generate compassion towards others."

He added: "An hour, a minute before you changed (to maintaining mindfulness of this universal responsibility), you were acting out of ego and self-centeredness... because you were motivated by ego, attachment ruled your mind and your actions did not become a cause of everlasting happiness...if there's no compassion in your heart, what you're left with is ego, the self-centered mind. That means your entire life is dedicated to your own happiness. But what about others? They also want to be happy. You're not the only one who needs happiness; others also need happiness..."

How true. I was preoccupied with my own happiness. My Vesak. My holiday. My ego was deflated by that client so-called untimely instructions. The client could have acted out of pursuit of her own happiness. As Zopa Rinpoche rightly pointed out that when one is under the influence of ego, it's very easy to clash with others in daily life. The self-centered mind causes problems. As long as one acts out of ego, one harms others. This is because the ego is intent on achieving happiness for oneself at the expense of others.

He advises that it does not matter whether other people practice compassion or not. Do it first. Develop the good heart.

Just reflecting on that changed the frame of mind I was in. The unhappiness dissipated. I felt compassion towards the client. I am more at peace, just bearing in mind that the happiness of others starts with me, the self-centred I.

By the way, the purported tongue-lashing meeting was postponed at the last minute to a later date. I am no longer worried nor affected by it. Thank you Rinpoche. I shall treasure this teaching.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Power of Forgiveness

As I texted Bro No 4 to wish him "Happy Birthday" this morning, I went back to this day three or four years ago. It was a similar birthday-greeting sms that bridged severed ties and began healing old wounds.

Tony cut ties with the whole family after a squabble. Not a word from him and his family members. Not an inkling where they were nor how they were doing. It was that bad. The rift was close to -- I lost track of time -- 15 years or even wider!

Time eases the pain but it is forgiveness that has the miraculous healing power. Having learnt to forgive and seek forgiveness, I decided to trace him with the help of a journalist friend. He is in Johore, I was told and I was given his mobile number.

A birthday wish from a long-lost younger brother would be a good reconciliatory move. But it drew no response on that day. And to my pleasant surprise, Tony called a few days later. It made my day! He too has forgiven!

We caught up on lost time, mainly on how and what the children are doing. His Daughter No 1 is in Singapore and Daughter No 2 will be in MMU. Never once did we venture into the mutually designated prohibited zone of the squabble. It was too painful.

We finally met up in Penang just before Chinese New Year for wedding of the only son of Bro No 1. Mother too opened up to Tony's reconcliatory gestures. There was forgiveness in the air...

Oh, the wonders of forgiveness! It lifts the boulder of pain. It opens up the heart. It uplifts the spirit. It sinks in the reality of the impermanent nature of things. Nothing remains permanent... even the body that we call our own is impermanent. So why do we still cling on and subject ourselves to anger, hatred and grudges?

It simply amazes me... so much to learn from life.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

The Toothless Grin

It was the toothless grin that caught my attention more than what he was saying. He was whispering something in Hokkien and thinking that I did not understand, he switched to Malay. As I strained my ears, I caught it. He wanted me to buy him a meal.

As I sat in the mamak shop in SS3, Petaling Jaya, I looked him up and down. His shirt was crumbled. His pants that ill fitted a smaller waistline was held together by a worn-out belt. But, he was clean and to a certain extent, neat.

I nodded in agreement. The waiter who was watching the scene, turned to me and asked: Berapa? Empat ringgit? Again, I nodded in agreement.

Still wearing the grin, he headed for the fried chicken and picked up his choice piece only to be reprimanded by the waiter for using his fingers. His food was packed and he came back in front of me to ask whether he could have a canned drink. Again, I agreed and he darted away. I did not see him leave the shop but what he left behind that lingered in my mind was his happiness and his toothless grin.

The joy of having performed an act of kindness was momentarily disrupted by the waiter telling me that he does this every morning. Surprisingly, I did not react with anger nor contempt. When I first agreed to his request, the thought in my mind was that if I could buy my friends a meal, why not a stranger who has the courage to ask.

I was taken up by his courage. What would drive a man to ask... to lower his dignity? Circumstances? Adversity? He may be getting a meal to feed other mouths for all we know.

Some may disagree. With the act of kindness, we may be feeding his insincerity, condoning dishonesty, encouraging laziness, etc, etc, etc. BUT who are we to judge? And should we judge?

Would it suffice to know that one's act of kindness resonate with happiness all round? Or does one need to know the circumstances and everything of the recipient of one's kindness? I likened it to wanting to know the brand and every detail of an arrow or a bullet that was shot at you rather than being focused on the present moment of being shot and seeking medical attention.

To me, I am satisfied with the moment of happiness that the act of kindness brought. It is the unconditional, random act without any expectations whatsoever. Even a grin would be just rewards... what a lesson from a man with the toothless grin!

Friday, 23 March 2007

Lesson in no Lesson

Where would the next lesson come from? Yes, it has been a while since the last posting. Admittedly, the pace that I have been going through has not allowed me to sit back and observe for lessons in life since I have not run smack into any situation that would turn out to be a great life learning experience.

It is obvious, from the the above admission, that I need to slow down to be able to drink in the moment. Possibly then will there be something that will pop out and turn out to be a lesson. Actually, some things did pop up but I thought the better of it to hold my tongue (and fingers from furiously jabbing the keyboards) lest I bring myself to the low down of rectums, warts and all.

I take comfort that I have not allowed myself to fall victim to shoot my mouth off and hurt feelings that some through their ignorance and contempt have generalised that bloggers are inclined to.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Highway Lesson

Son No. 1, Julian, had taken over the wheel from me after three hours on the road. Singing along with the radio, he was unperturbed by the bumper-to-bumper crawl on the North-South Expressway yesterday evening. Neither was he attracted to follow the cars that whizzed by us on the emergency lane.

I observed from the back seat, how calm and patient he was. He had resigned to the fact that it would be a long haul as the hourly traffic report on radio had repeatedly stated that traffic was slow moving from Tapah to Rawang on this evening of third day of Chinese New Year, the last day of the Chinese New Year public holiday.

My thoughts then raced back to many, many Chinese New Year ago when I did not have the luxury then to have Julian as a substitute driver. He was not even in his teens and of legal age to be at the wheel.

Impatient to get home to Penang for Chinese New Year, I broke the law. I got on to the emergency lane and beamed with pride and a sense of achievement as I whizzed by many cars. Something made me look at the rear mirror. A white Proton was tailgating me. The driver was breathing down my neck, coming too close for comfort.

The next thing I saw was a swirl of blue light. It's police car! I've had it. It's gonna be an expensive Chinese New Year trip. What a bad start for Chinese New Year!

I pulled aside, got out of the car, red-faced. The drivers and passengers of that cars that whizzed by me now would be wearing that serve you right grin. The driver of the police car walked up to me. He was alone. But there was something about him. He had that look of authority, that of a senior police officer.

In hushed tones, barely audible above the din of traffic, he spoke to me. I strained my ears and made out his question of what would I do if my loved ones were up ahead needing medical attention and I was the one obstructing the way by driving on the emergency lane.

Here I was ready to take the rap and accept the traffic summons but instead he dealt a blow that knocked the wind out of me! He followed up the knock-out blow with again something unexpected. Expressing understanding of my eagerness to be home for Chinese New Year, he said he would let me off! Just remember the question, drive your family home safely and have a Happy Chinese New Year... were his parting words.

Shocked and stunned, I got back into the car and related to wife and Son No. 1 the lesson that I had on the emergency lane. The police officer with his wisdom had taught me and my family an invaluable lesson. The uncharacteristic admonishment has left an imprint in all of us that the emergency lane is for EMERGENCIES.

I am glad for that lesson and for that teacher who skilfully taught that lesson that Julian in his young age then still remember and will remember for life.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

The RM5 Lesson

He took out his thin, worn wallet. And all he had in it were just a few one ringgit notes. Five to be exact. RM5, that's all. Was that to last him for the day, the next few days or...

No, it can't be that RM5 was all he had! Have you not heard of the ATM?

But what if that was all that he had? How could one survive with just RM5 even for one day in Kuala Lumpur?

That could be the stark reality. It hit me. There could be people like this slim security guard who just does not have enough. No wonder he was earlier reluctant to help me break my RM10 for me to give him RM5 to pay the car wash boy, who comes by the building and washes whatever cars and moves on.

The security guard, whom I always notice to wear a smile, was now embarassed for baring all just to help me. He cast his eyes on the ground after he handed me the RM5 change for my RM10.

As I drove off, the sight of near empty wallet replayed over and over again in my mind. In between thoughts of "count your blessings" and "how unfortunate" were flashes of the past when I too experiend times when the pay cheque could not last a month. Those were the days when they were always still so many days before month end.

Those days have not revisted me since then until that day of the RM5 lesson in life. It was a reminder of the harsh realities, of the need for prudence in spending, of the unfortunate, of how generosity is the antidote for greed and all kinds of cravings. It taught me a lot... and this time, the teacher was a security guard.