Meaningful gestures from ordinary human beings rekindle hope

The water lily stalks from the vendor - BENEDICT LOPEZ

During his early morning walks, Benedict Lopez discovers honest and kind ordinary people who lift his spirits.

Previously, I used to start my morning walks at the unearthly hour of 4.30am.

Starting my exercise in pitch darkness before the crack of dawn can be a challenge, as I was usually the only one out on the streets. People expressed concern about my personal safety walking at such an early hour.

My standard response? I didn’t think I was a prime candidate for a robbery victim and if I was to encounter an unfortunate experience on the streets, I would give the robber everything I have, which would be only RM20.

Much to the surprise of many, I encountered many unsavoury characters at that hour who also enquired about me walking at that unnerving time.

My standard response: “I am in peace with nature only at this time of the day.”

From this week, I changed my routine to a 7am walk, just to observe how ordinary men and women in our country earn a living.

From what I see, they are mostly decent, hardworking, resilient women and men, eking out an honest living. They make me feel proud to be a Malaysian. They stand in stark contrast with many of the corrupt who rob the people of Malaysia.

During my walks, I notice a few nasi lemak vendors and others selling ordinary Malaysian pastries, vegetables, fish, meat and fruit, and I patronise them from time to time. From their body language alone, they are a bundle of hilarity and cheerfulness.

Just yesterday, I greeted one of the regular vendors.

As usual, she was vivacious and glad to see me. She gave me two stalks of a water lily plant (see photo above) and wished me a happy new year.

I was taken aback by her noble gesture.

The lady who sells curry puffs is like her. Sometimes, when it is time for her to retire for the day, she gives me one or two extra curry puffs, but I always pay her slightly more than the amount due.

Observing these vendors daily reignites my hope and longstanding belief that it is the ordinary Malaysians who genuinely epitomise the kindness, humanity and compassion that many Malaysians are noted for. In small and poignant ways, they are the ones who give impetus to economic activity on the ground.  

Happy new year to all those who have made and continue to make this country what it is today.

God bless all of you.

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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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Dr. SNaidu
Dr. SNaidu
4 Jan 2021 2.03pm

Tks Bndict.Yr art’ made my day.Like u I was a public SERVANT, n still a student of public administration which we majored in.Having grown up in kgs,estates,n towns,I believe God is gracing this nation still because of the human goodness of ordinary Msns.Because of their sense n toil for good work,for family, kin n nation.Dr.M quite RIGHTLY has reminded Msns that we r not’educated’.Learning never ends,it has to go down deep to our souls.I would hope he would set an example, ‘educatedly speaking’,declare his assets.Najib, Adnan, others have been been held accountable- to the RAKYAT. I am hopeful, because of the little MSN eking out a living with one’s sweat n blood.Scandinavian c’tries, Singapore, Vietnam r egs we NEEd to emulate urgently.

loyal malaysian
loyal malaysian
1 Jan 2021 5.07am

Thank you, Benedict.
It is a heartwarming piece to start off the New Year.

Yes, I have been very critical of this govt. since it crept into Putrajaya via the backdoor. The fact of the matter is that none of its policies are for the good and welfare of the rakyat but a means to an end – clinging to power.

But, it is true, Benedict that on the human level, many of us have met Malaysians of all walks of life who are kind, humane and compassionate. It is the politicians like Mahathir and Muhyiddin who have pitted the rakyat of different races against each other. For those of us who call Malaysia our home, we can only hope and pray that these dastardly politicians don’t succeed!!