Learn to endure, be positive and humane during this pandemic

Encouraging words and acts of humanity towards those who are struggling cost nothing

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The wet market at Lucky Garden: Help the small vendors ride through these tough times - BENEDICT LOPEZ

Since the onset of the pandemic, stories of despondency and gloom swamped the daily news.

The news focused on the severity of this pandemic, the fatalities, the economic crisis, skyrocketing unemployment and the long-term impact on our lives and work.

Remaining positive during a calamity is easier said than done when much of the news has been grim.

Naturally, issues related to the pandemic or endemic are critical as we have to take measures to protect ourselves. Perhaps instead of obsessing over every ghastly detail, we should focus on the positives so that we maintain our resolve to ride through this turbulent period.

Now is the time to take stock of life. I am more fortunate than many who have lost their jobs and face dire consequences. I can afford to watch 24-hour channels, surf the internet, and chat with my local and overseas friends. I also have the luxury of time.

Still, I fret each day over what I’m going to do the next day. I look forward to visiting Rawang again with my friends and going to our favourite restaurant for lunch once a month. Just meeting and chatting with my friend Lee, who is the chief chef at the restaurant, will make my trip there worthwhile. I have known Lee for 35 years.

I am thankful that my friends and I were fortunate to have brief holidays in Penang, Malacca and Fraser’s Hill last year when restrictions were temporarily lifted. But it has been 18 months since I last had an overseas holiday, especially in neighbouring countries where fares were more affordable.

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My eyes have been wide open all these months. I think of which small businesses I can patronise to just support them through these tough times. Those empty seats are not helping restaurant owners pay their staff and other overheads. Takeaways do not generate much income. But I hope my patronage will in a small way assist the restaurateurs to keep their businesses afloat when I buy my lunch or dinner.

Practising small acts of kindness goes a long way in uplifting people. I tell Ali, the owner of a stationery shop in Lucky Gardens, to continue serving his customers as usual, despite the challenging times. I can see the smile on his face when I tell him: “Tough times don’t last long brother, but tough people do.” Such words and acts of humanity cost nothing.

Ever since the pandemic, I have stopped haggling with small vendors. I think to myself: let them earn some extra money as they can do something more for their families.

When I collect my laundry in Lucky Gardens, I make sure I give the Filipino or Indonesian worker the small balance due to me. It brightens up their faces.

Even before the pandemic, I did the same with the ride-hailing drivers, as they entertain me with their banter and some serious conversation. The small tip is always cherished, and I see that from their response. I also tell them how much I appreciate their services to society.

I also express my thanks to our security guards in my residential area for their efforts in keeping us safe.

Always think of those who can benefit from our kind thoughts and empathy.

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Many people in countries like Italy and the UK broke into applause and sang to honour their healthcare workers. Regrettably, we have largely not acknowledged our everyday heroes the same way. There are too few examples of acts that acknowledge the contributions of our frontline workers.

Go to sleep every night with a positive acknowledgement of something you have accomplished, learned or are grateful for. It will help dilute some of the negativity you’ve absorbed and remind you that not everything that is happening now is bad or depressing. At least, your values in life may have been changed for the better.

My friend Naban told me that after 49 years of working, he is taking it easy now. His teaching contract with a local university expired last year. Prior to that, he had worked for 36 years with an airline company.

Does he feel despondent? “I am learning to be positive and strong during this pandemic,” he tells me. And why not? He has had a pretty good innings in life.

Now he appreciates spending quality time with his family and keeping fit. Brisk walking and yoga help him find a new rhythm, meaning and balance in life. Reading, writing, listening to music, encouraging and helping friends, especially when they go through trying moments, are part of his current daily routine.

Texting and calling friends regularly; taking part in daily exchanges in chat groups; keeping in touch with ex-colleagues and classmates; and getting involved in residents’ associations are all excellent platforms for remaining positive. It serves a purpose to share positive things in life, rather than allow the negatives to take over.

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Some people have changed since the pandemic began, looking at everyone as a carrier of this virus. When they see their friends and neighbours, even those whom they’ve known for a long time, coming in their direction, they deliberatively avoid them.

I can understand their apprehension, but to be hypersensitive is beyond my comprehension. They don’t realise they live in a community and need their friends and neighbours in the event of an emergency.

Several people I know have been mean, denying their loyal domestic workers their employment, because they assume they are infected. This despite their family members having received two jabs and their domestic workers, too. Some of these migrant workers have worked part time for them for a few years.

Sadly, there are a few like them who live in my vicinity. Not too long ago, these were the same people singing the praises of these migrant workers.

All of us face challenges in our lifetime, but even this pandemic will pass. Somehow, we will ride through this rough patch of life.

If we ponder over why we experienced a contagion of this magnitude, perhaps we can find solace from a line in a poem by Henry Longfellow: “For thine own purpose, thou has sent The strife and the discouragement!” 

That said, I remain cautiously optimistic and I believe better days lie ahead of us.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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Wong Lee Ping
Wong Lee Ping
2 Oct 2021 12.29pm

Excellent! Congatulations Benedict.