Liv­ing light­heart­edly

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.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

’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.

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