Betrayal happens to many people- especially coming from those you trust or who are related to you. Often, when someone you trusts so much cheated you, they take away more than the money and time you’ve invested in the relationship. They may take away your faith in mankind.
The period dealing with it involves a host of emotions- anger, hurt, bitterness and even grief. It’s hard to articulate, so I thought I share it from a perspective of an 80 year old woman.
There’s a 80 year old lady I call Ah Mah who have always been very kind to me. She is a great cook and a natural healer and from the time I’ve known her more than 5 years ago, she had always been concerned, kind and cared for me. I’ve stayed with her in Johor, Kelantan and Thailand- and she saw to it that my food is taken care of- so when she’s there, I was always healthy and hearty.
Recently she came to town for a visit. So I took the time to visit and catch up with her. Parting with her is always sad for me- she’s like grandma to me.
But what I wish to write about is her outlook over the years on betrayal. Initially, it was bitterness, then anger and finally come acceptance. Life had not be kind to her most of the time, and yet, she still remained the same- kind to people.
A long time ago, when Ah Mah’s own younger brother was 11 years old, he nearly died from a strange illness. As she was bringing back her brother back from hospital (where the doctors were pessimistic on his chances of survival), she gave him a ‘breath of life’ and fainted (she’s a born healer). Then, for 3 months and 10 days, she took time off from her business to take care of him full time. He had problem swallowing- so everything had to be made into small pieces- fruits have to be scraped using a scrapper and everything cut into minute pieces.
Fast forward decades later, her brother moved to the city to work, got married and had kids.
And almost 10 years ago, Ah Mah’s granddaughter came to city to study on a scholarship. She gave her granddaughter an ATM card with a bit of money in the bank account for her to withdraw to buy food and to use on required expenses. On the first day, her granddaughter attempted to withdraw a bit of money to buy food from the ATM machine. And the ATM swallowed the card (probably due to invalid pin tries).
All alone in a strange city, stranded with literally no money, she called home to her grandma and was crying over the phone. I can only imagine how terrible it must have felt- I left home to pursue my higher education and stayed in another state- and at least I had 3 friends from the same school that were posted there- and we clung to each other for support and friendship. I can’t imagine how it was like for the poor girl.
Initially, Ah Mah contacted her younger brother- who happened to be overseas. His wife picked up the phone and when the grandma asked her for help- she asked if the woman can help to lend some money- she would pay her back.
You know what she said?
“I’m sorry, we are all very busy- we cannot go and see her.”
Despite numerous calls to the family, the answer remains the same. There’s quite a number of people in her brother’s family and none of them have the time to drop what they’re doing for a short while…to drive to the hostel and give the poor little girl some money so that she can buy some food to eat.
No one, imagine- her own brother’s family- there’s no gratitude. Her brother would not have been alive today had it not been for her. If had it not been Ah Mah who given him (she was supposed to lent only but he never returned the money) money to start his business, he would not be the rich person he is today.
Over the years, he had just forgotten.
In desperation, Ah Mah called another man called Peter- a man whom she had helped years ago. You see, Peter had some form of growth at the throat years ago in which Ah Mah managed to treat with herbal medicine. Peter just dropped whatever he was doing, and rushed to her granddaughter’s aid. Because he was worried that her granddaughter would be frightened, he took along another female companion.
He took her out for a good meal, gave her some money to use and together they went to the bank to speak to bank officers. Unfortunately, the thing that local banks used to do- they cannot give back the ATM card to the granddaughter because she’s not the account owner. They had to sent back the ATM card to the issuing branch.
Later when the girl had to shift out from the hostel, Peter offered his home for her to come and stay in. But due to the far distance from college and the fact that she did not have her own transport, she couldn’t stay there. So Peter went around and finally got her a rented room near her college.
Through the entire time when her granddaughter came to study, and now to work, Ah Mah’s brother (who stay in the same city here) never tried to call her and check on her. Today, her granddaughter, through her own efforts, have managed to secure a good job (but punishing working hours), bought herself a car, and recently, a home of her own.
Ah Mah also shared with me another example.
When she operated a sewing shop decades ago, there’s this poor Malay boy who always hung around her shop. His family was very poor so Ah Mah offered him some job so that he could earn a living while going to school. She also bought food for him to eat.
The boy studied very hard and eventually got an offer to a local university. But instead of being rejoiced, he was crying at a corner. Seeing that, Ah Mah asked the boy what’s wrong. Initially, he was reluctant to tell her but after some coaxing, he told her that the university required some clothings- shoes, traditional attire and other things that he had no money to buy. He was going to decline the offer because he was too poor to pay for anything.
Ah Mah asked him to list down all the items- for clothings, she sewed for him and for other items, she brought him to buy them. She also gave him a little pocket money. The items, after all, were not expensive.
The boy, after graduating, got himself a good job. Eventually, he became a high ranking government official.
And he never forgets. He knows that he would not be where he is today when help was not given during the crucal time. Today, both he and his wife would welcome Ah Mah with a hug whenever they see her. When he came to visit her, his hands will be full carrying the gifts for her. Ah Mah laughed when she told me that instead of spending him during Chinese New Year, he took her and her family out for a meal of more than RM100 (it’s big money in that small town).
Ah Mah was telling me an incident- where there were burst pipes in her housing area- because in the rural area, the roads were not properly constructed- so as lorries go over them, it causes the pipe underneath the road to burst. She had been calling the waterworks department for days and each time, she was given a lot of excuses and no one came. So Ah Mah called the man and asked if he could come over to have the pipe fixed.
The next day, 3 men showed up in front of her house. They asked her why did she lodge a complaint with the Head of the Division? They got a call and were scolded and told to come immediately. Ah Mah (who is not educated and illiterate) had no idea what rank the man was- the only thing she knew was that he was good with plumbing.
Needless to say, the burst water pipe was taken care of promptly.
All her life, Ah Mah had always helped people and her family. There had been those who have been grateful, and more often, those who are ungrateful. Today, she had learned to accept that’s the fact of life- and moved on.
Instead of being bitter, she still continues to give. Today, in her small home, she plants flowers and vegetables- and they grow beautifully. She gave them away- she told me that there’s a boy with cancer and she gave him a lot of the vegetables because they’re organic.
And she relayed to me stories of strangers who always wanted to help her wherever she went- she would be eating at a stall and when she wanted to pay, she found out a stranger paid for her food. Once, when she was buying some grocery, the owner took out the money from his own wallet and asked his cashier to pay for it. A well known doctor in her area refused to accept money from her each time she saw the doctor- she reluctant and would not have gone back had it not been because the doctor’s medicine was effective.
The kindness that you give out will always return back to you in one form or another. They may not come immediately, or returned back by the same people whom you have given it to. It may return back to your children.
Therefore, don’t let ungrateful people make you bitter for life. Often than not, people who rush to our side when we need help the most would be our friends instead of relatives. Sometimes, they come from strangers too.
So, don’t be bitter or cynical. The world is still a beautiful place. There are many more deserving people whom your kindness can touch and change.