Blog: The Quality in Uncertainty
By Adelynn Lim
People often say kindness arrives just when you need it, and in the form of the unexpected.
For the past three weeks, my colleague and I had the opportunity to do just that – assisting a group of local NGOs for food delivery. Once a week, we helped to pack and deliver 3,000 food items to migrant, refugee and underprivileged families across the Klang Valley – some at the furthest reaches of Dengkil and Kajang, while others, quite surprisingly, right back home here in Subang.
(Caption: Spot the #MyVoxFam shirts!)
Kindness: Do good or feel good?
Before each delivery, we would call each family and converse in our very-rusty BM. After some time, I realised that the lack of language proficiency really frustrated me. I so badly wanted to have rich, honest conversations with them; to know how they were holding up and if there was anything else that I could help them with.
But this got me thinking: Why did I want to know so badly? Was it a form of self-validation, to know that they could confide in me and look to me for help? It seemed awfully vain that I thought that way.
The truth was, I found it hard to reconcile that I was bringing food to them in luxury vehicles that had been loaned to the NGOs by my client; or that I was enjoying a drive-thru KFC lunch while the food packs we delivered consisted only of the most basic pantry items. This led me to second-guess my kindness in doing this week after week.
(Caption: Mask on, folks. Don’t be a Week-1 Adelynn)
The thing about kindness during a crisis is that it is always perceived a “gimmick”, something you are applauded for in the daily evening news: “Big Corporation XYZ donates 1,000 ABC items to the needy to fight Covid-19.”
My cynical voice: “I don’t know about you, but a couple of chocolate bars ain’t going to fight the virus, Susan.”
Kindness is so easily mistaken for a stunt nowadays, and here I was fighting an internal battle and wondering if I was slowly becoming one of these people. After all, the signs were there.
Each week, I always seemed to draw the furthest destinations even though the assignments were random. Looking at my drop-off points, I couldn’t help feeling I often drew the short straw – having to drive 40KM further than everyone else.
The funniest thing was that in spite of how I felt before each run… I’d always end up being glad I didn’t swap out. Because if I did, I wouldn’t have encountered so many wonderful people.
Kindness: Why it also takes you by surprise
Take last week for instance. I wasn’t expecting anything special to happen beyond the ordinary. Most beneficiaries would say thank you, nod and leave. Some may offer you some tea; but this time, it was different.
I was tasked to deliver to this family all the way in Meru, Klang. As per procedure, I dialled the family first. No answer. I must have dialled at least five times before finally giving up and moving on to the next location. For hours, I didn’t think much of it, but the nagging feeling at the back of my mind kept telling me not to lose hope on them.
As I approached my final drop-off point, I dialled the number one last time. A man picked up and apologised profusely.
Apparently, in the midst of the MCO chaos, he had relocated his family a week prior due to his wife’s ailing condition. They moved in with his relatives in Kota Damansara.
I ran his new address through my phone, and it was going to be an additional hour’s journey from where I was (!). He told me not to inconvenience myself; I told him to hang tight. Besides, I needed to drive back to KL anyway.
When I arrived – 20 minutes late – he was already outside and ready to greet me. Even his wife, who was recovering from a partial stroke, came out to say hello too. They were the nicest people I had encountered during the MCO.
After I helped them carry the food packs to their gate, we stood there for a good half hour just talking and sharing stories. I learned about their struggles, their coping methods during the MCO, how they were keeping themselves happy in a 17-person household by baking treats for Raya – not just as a side income, but as a family activity since everyone was unemployed.
Before I left, the man packed some freshly baked cookies for me to take home. “For your troubles, Puan,” he said.
(Caption: Butter hearts, pineapple tarts and some chocolate cookies)
Privilege: It’s what you do with it that counts
It was then that I realised I wasn’t craving validation or reassurance that I was doing “a good thing”, or that I wasn’t a bad person for having a job or tasty food to eat during the MCO. The reality was this: being privileged has helped me help people, and in all my confusion and self-doubt, I was genuinely making some sort of difference in the lives of so many families.
What I was looking for was the warmth that radiates from one kind heart to another. I had been trying to give so much love and kindness over the weeks to make up for all the “stunts” people were pulling on TV but wondering why no ‘warmth’ was reciprocated in return.
In fact, I even had a few local men shout at me for “giving so much food to these people”. It is dumbfounding that such hate can be present, even in times like these. The beneficiary they referred to was so embarrassed, he almost hurried away without his sack of rice.
Well, just when all hope was crushed and when I least expected it, there it was: love and kindness arriving just when you need it, unexpected.
I really wasn’t expecting for much, if anything at all – maybe a hug or two (which is, of course, not the best idea during these weird times). But it did arrive, in the form of warm cookies, a candid conversation and a long wave goodbye.
Call me over-optimistic, but random acts of kindness are truly an agent of human change (to one’s self especially!). It is also what the world deeply needs in this pause. Maybe, just maybe… post-MCO reality will come with a whole lot more cookies.
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This blog entry expresses the personal views of the author and does not represent the views of Vox Eureka PLT.