Monday, May 19, 2014

Treasures of the heart; Happy Teachers Day

Many fall into the trap of ‘loving things and using people’, but it is the unseen treasures that matter most.

PULAU Nangka off Malacca may be unknown to most of us, but not to treasure hunters who have been working to unearth a multi-billion ringgit loot that is believed to be buried somewhere on the island.

It’s the kind of stuff Indiana Jones would be interested in. So when it was announced that two ancient coins – supposedly from the Malacca Sultanate era – were found last week, the newspapers went to town with the news.

But in dealing with the discovery of lost treasures, dinosaurs and religious artifacts, it is never wise to celebrate too early.

The find at Pulau Nangka is awaiting authentication, but the circumstances with regards to the timing of the discovery have thrown up many questions, which leads one to conclude that this may be a false alarm after all.

People in general are always on the hunt for treasures. Okay, few of us would venture into jungles or dive to the bottom of the sea.

But if we examine our own lives, we may actually find that the material wealth that we have accumulated over the years is like an inventory of treasures.

They can be major assets like property, cars, stocks or jewellery. Or they can even be minor, everyday items. We can laugh about Imelda Marcos’ collection of shoes but frankly, isn’t there a bit of Imelda in everyone of us?

Be it shoes, handbags, clothes, phones or computers, we go hunting in the malls, collect what we desire, use them for a while and then store them away.

Many are reluctant to let go of their “treasures” and give them away only when they run out of space, by which time the shoes cannot be worn anymore and the computers can no longer run.

There are many recycling booths in my neighbourhood, and it is sad to see that they are mainly used as garbage dumps.

I have gone around to collect things from people who want to donate to charity but more often than not, I find that I am just transferring them to a dump.

What’s the point of giving away things that are no longer usable or which may even pose a danger to the people we supposedly want to help?

That’s the problem with earthly treasures. They have a definite “use by” date and are subjected to wear and tear.

Worse, because we love our things so much, we cry buckets when thieves cart away our latest smartphones and electronic gadgets. Or when we get a tiny scratch on our new luxury car.

We tend to “love things and use people” when material possessions are our treasures.

Fortunately, there are real treasures in life that are worth accumulating. Even Christie’s and Sotheby’s cannot put a value to them.

My dear friend rushed from an official function to hold my hand when I struggled during one chemotherapy session. A warm embrace between a Muslim and a Christian – that was a treasured moment.

I am indeed blessed with many treasures bequeathed to me from family, friends and total strangers. They do not take up space in my house, but they fill up every nook and corner in my heart.

> Executive editor Soo Ewe Jin (ewejin@thestar.com.my) wishes all mothers Happy Mother’s Day, mindful that “when someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure to always hold in your heart”.

The value of teachers

WE often hear stories about kiasu parents in Singapore who go to great lengths to ensure their children are enrolled in top-notch schools.

But there is one school in the island republic that is also in high demand, but for a different reason.

Northlight School, which has earned itself a reputation as a school of opportunities and possibilities, only admits those who have failed the Primary School Leaving Exami­nation (PSLE) at least twice, and are deemed unable to progress to secon­dary-level education.

I heard about this school for the first time at a gathering of Klang Valley teachers held in Petaling Jaya last Tuesday in conjunction with Teachers Day.

The motivational speaker from Singapore kept everyone in awe as she shared about the success stories from that school – how a pool of dedicated and compassionate teachers transformed the lives of so many because of their belief that “Failure in an exam is not failure in life”.

I love teachers who educate and not just teach their students. These are the teachers who help shape the character of their students because they value effort, creativity and strength of character. And because they care, they will always be remembered.

Our Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh shared about the late Cikgu Fatimah, a former headmistress at SM Tengku Mah­mud, in his hometown of Besut, Terengganu (“Always in sight, forever in my heart,” The Star, May 16).

“During her life, she’d always visit her students and their parents at their homes and would help them solve issues faced not just by the students but the family as a whole. She’d provide guidance, support and motivation to them even after school hours, going well beyond the call of duty,” the minister wrote.

“When Cikgu Fatimah fell sick, her students took care of her until she passed away. Such is the reciprocal love and care of the students to their teacher who led by example.”

How touching. Coming from that generation, I also have many such stories to share, but we must not think that these stories only happen in the good old days. Maybe they are imprinted more deeply in our minds because we had fewer distractions back then.

I know of many teachers still in service in various parts of the country who reach out to their students be­­­­­­­yond the classroom. Where others see despair, they see hope. And so they plod on, amidst the many challenges, to make a difference in the lives of their students.

And we are not just talking about schools in the outback but also those in the urban centres. Those who go to top schools but always end up in the so-called bottom classes will understand what I mean.

When the school goes rah-rah over the super-duper achievers, it takes a special teacher to see the worth in a young student in the lower class who will never get that kind of attention.

The seeds of encouragement she sows may take a while to blossom, but they will.

I was glad to recognise a number of such teachers in that gathering on Tuesday. They may not be getting the headlines, but they do not labour in vain. Happy Teachers Day.

Contributed by Sunday Starters, Soo Ewe Jin The Star
> Executive editor Soo Ewe Jin (ewejin@thestar.com.my) wishes all mothers Happy Mother’s Day, mindful that “when someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure to always hold in your heart”.

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