A simple act of kindness goes a long way.
What is an act of kindness? Do we really need to ponder what kindness is? Don’t human beings have an innate sense of kindness and compassion that outweighs logical reasoning?
Has the world forgotten about all the heroic deeds of ordinary folks? Strangers who save one another out of burning buildings; or people who do not know how to swim diving in to save a drowning child; or people who donate their organs to others just so they can live another day?
The above simple act of kindness by Raven Murugesan was shared on Facebook over 9,000 times as of 11PM last night. Raven had suggested to a Muslim cashier to drink and eat a little before continuing work at the checkout counter of a supermarket in Kepong. This occurred during breaking fast time and so only one counter was open at that time.
Many people are overwhelmed by the bombardment of racist and racial remarks made by certain quarters intended to aggravate the fragile interracial tolerance of the country. Even so, little acts of compassion such as the above transcend all barriers and offer a glimmer of hope in humanity.
“I cried when I read it. I was so thankful there are mindful non-Muslims”, said Samsiah Ismail, a Facebook user who was touched by the kind gesture and shared the post with her friends.
What Raven had done is very touching and speaks volume of our human character.
Sometimes even under extreme conditioning, it is still impossible to erase that benevolence which is almost instinctive and second nature to the human psyche. However, something must be really wrong somewhere when people start to behave otherwise.
Raven revealed that he has received more than 1000 friend requests over his Facebook account since his posting went viral today. Many positive comments can be seen on his page.
“Compassion, tolerance and respect are very important values to inculcate into the minds of our youngsters to forge unity”, said Raven, a 50 year old school teacher who grew up in a small town called Bukit Rotan.
Raven is strictly a vegetarian and currently teaches the Malay and English language in Kuala Selangor.
The rest of the interview is as follows:
What compelled you to react so kindly when most people might have overlooked that it was time for breaking fast?
R: As a teacher, that is a built-in mode. We must treat everyone as our family members.
What is your opinion on racial harmony in Malaysia?
R: I belong to the olden days of unity where I would sleep over for 3 or 4 days in my Malay friend’s house and vice-versa. We were one big happy family back then. If there is an Indian wedding, you can see all the Chinese and Malay youths working together to decorate the house. The excitement of friendship and the depth of unity were not molded by advertisement or promotions.
Socially, the environment was matured to allow children to mingle freely without prejudice. We get to peek and see into their living rooms and lives and they get to do the same to ours. I called my friend's Mak ngah as Mak Ngah and his Mak Andak as Mak Andak. My Chinese friends call my uncle Chittapa. This goes to show the close knit community we were back then.
Do you think that enough has been done in our education system to forge racial unity?
R: I have been teaching for 30 years, and have conducted hundreds of seminars. And in all the seminars, I have never failed to take the opportunity to tell the present generation what they have been missing. What we have now is a formally devised platform to integrate, which is not natural. It gives that ‘fake’ feeling. I personally feel that sections of our society have isolated themselves for various reasons.
Teachers should instill love beyond racial identification in every student. I guess at the end of the day, unity will always start from school.
When I was in Year One in 1970, my shirt was accidentally torn because one of my friends pulled it. My teacher, a Malay lady immediately called me and gave a brand new shirt which she said she had bought for her son. I never saw her as my teacher after that. She was my hero, my mum. That is what we need amongst our young teachers.
Are there remedial steps that we may take to halt the deterioration in racial relations?
R: I really do not know if there is a cure for it but what I believe is if more and more people realise that humanity is one of the most important thing in our lives to move forward, then in years to come, we might see wonders. There is humanity in each of us but at times it is dormant.
We should teach the children to respect the culture, language and people of other races. Once we can cultivate respect and admiration, it will become a good platform to move forward. However, if we belittle other people’s culture and language, there will be no ‘X-Factor’ in the students to look forward to for any interactions with other groups.
Do you think that vernacular schools are a hindrance to national unity?
R: Many will say that vernacular schools are the problem but they are definitely not the problem. Back in the 50's vernacular schools were the order of the day, but the children of that era had wonderful relationship between them because the society was more relaxed.
We were taught right from the start the differences between government and political parties.
Vernacular schools do not propagate partisanship. So I guess all the talk about vernacular schools being the reason for racial disharmony is pure drama.
How you you think the media is contributing in forging racial unity?
R: Today, United States can accept an American of African origin because of its media. It started way back in the 60's where the media such as movies started to coin with the idea of non-white becoming the President. The media took the first steps in that direction.
In Malaysia, the reverse is happening. I guess the media needs to be more responsible on racial issues and not contribute towards more racial tension.