With two more days to go to 2014, our columnist reflects on the emotional highs of the past year that she’d like to continue in the coming one.
’VE come to realise that resolutions sometimes resolve themselves in their own way and time. I stand guilty of making lofty lists for myself and giving up like two days into a new year for falling far short of them.
That is why I’m not sitting here with pen and paper, wondering what I shall resolve to do starting Jan 1.
As I reviewed my year that was, I chose to focus only on emotional highs, which often involved thankful strangers. The happiness that I experienced made me resolve to simply “be”.
One warm, fuzzy experience happened during winter early this year. I had just finished teaching a class and had a rumbling, hungry tummy.
So I headed for one of the many sandwich counters in the Main Train Station to check out the goodies there.
As I stood in line, craning my neck to survey the spread ahead, I noticed a bedraggled man standing just beside queuing commuters, holding up a cardboard box on which something was scrawled.
As my turn approached, and his forlorn form entered my peripheral vision, something my late Mum used to say simply came to me. You see, my Dad would often chide her for feeding anyone who came begging at our home.
While I could understand Dad’s logic that we can’t possibly save the whole world ourselves, Mum’s innocent Catholic retort always struck a chord: “But that could have been Jesus!” I believe she had taken an all-tooliteral leaf off a famous Biblical quote, “What you do to the least of My brothers and sisters, you do to Me.”
So I turned to the gentleman, read what was on his cardboard (that he was hungry) and offered to buy him a meal.
I admit that I’d also mentally prepared myself for a very public telling off as I’ve also often witnessed beggars loudly berating other Good Samaritans who offer to buy them meals instead of giving them cash.
This man however became teary and mere- ly whispered, “Yes, please.”
I then asked him to choose from any of the sandwiches to which he simply replied, “I would just like to have a sausage in a bun, if that is OK with you.” He stoutly refused anything else.
After he was handed his order, he waited patiently beside me while I bought and paid for my food.
As he profusely thanked me, I wished him “Guten Appetit” (enjoy your meal) and a good day and walked on.
The happiness that overcame me that whole day was indescribable. I resolved then to always pay heed to that “voice inside”.
When I first came to Frankfurt, I’d often wondered why many people rarely smiled.
In time, I learnt of the local logic of not smiling at strangers. In an effort to fit in, I did attempt it. But I quickly gave up because being morose merely made me miserable.
So, I smiled on despite the scowls or odd stares I often received in return.
Besides, I figured it was better to have laugh, instead of, frown lines! Little did I know that my attitude has and does indeed bring cheer to some people I come in regular contact with.
For instance, my dental hygienist told me at my last teeth-cleaning session, “Ach, Frau Haas! You’re one of the few that walk in here with a positive Ausstrahlung (charisma). That really helps when one spends all day looking into people’s mouths!”
Another person who made a similar remark recently is the lady who owns a Turkish delicatessen that I patronise regularly.
I usually greet her with a “Guten Tag” and we exchange the usual pleasantries – something that is customarily brushed off here as “superficial, like the Americans”.
During the Christmas shopping madness that was last week, she simply said, “You know whenever you come here, it’s like the sun just rose.”
Taken aback, I told her that that was perhaps one of the nicest things I’ve ever been told.
She replied, “Well, you’re one of the few customers I enjoy serving. Thought you should know.”
It was the vindication I needed to stay true to myself even if it means never quite fitting in.
And even if friendliness is not often reciprocated, have faith. It will be returned in the most unexpected circumstances.
I’ve also spent the tail end of this year being kind to myself.
While this may sound selfish, it is very necessary for us to rejuvenate our spirits to be kind to others in turn.
What’s the point of niceties, when you’re a grumpy old goat inside, right?
So, I’ve been clearing out emotional baggage and getting closure on issues that have been weighing me down. Nothing like a good spring-cleaning of the soul!
So on that note, I would like to wish all of you a rousing start to the New Year. May it be filled with light, love and light-heartedness.
Brenda Benedict is a Malaysian living in Frankfurt. She also recommends that people take time out to simply veg on the couch.