Chicken Rice

I brought my mother out for lunch at a chicken rice stall at Jalan Setia Raja, not far from the MBKS Stutong Market, in Kuching recently. Just as the food arrived, the old lady broke into a sweat and felt faint. She also complained of stomach ache and wanted to go to the washroom.

Since I was alone with her, naturally I was alarmed. Luckily, I had a bottle of mentholated topical ointment in my handbag. I quickly rubbed the ointment on her neck, her forehead and under her nostrils in the hope that it would keep her awake and prevent her from fainting.

When my mother insisted on going to the washroom, I requested the owner of the chicken rice stall to pack the food so that I could take it home. Her trip to the toilet did not improve my mother’s condition; she was still sweating and looked very pale.

A woman who was manning a stall next to the chicken rice stall advised me to bring my mother home as soon as possible. She noticed the long stitches on my mother’s head and said I should not have taken her out at all.

Although I parked my car quite near the coffee shop, the walk back to the car seemed to be so long, with my mother sweating and hanging on to me for strength.

When we passed an empty chair at the coffee shop next door, my mother insisted on sitting down for a while. I was worried and kept praying hard that the old lady would not lose consciousness there.

As I was trying to keep calm, I heard a soft voice beside me. I turned around. It was the young owner of the chicken rice stall.

“Can I help you with your mother, Towkay Neo?” he asked me. (Literal translation for Towkay Neo is towkay’s (boss’) wife; general meaning: lady of leisure; it is also a polite way to call an older woman).

I was greatly surprised by his kindness. Many other people had looked at my mother and I as we struggled to get to the car but none had offered to help us.

At that moment I really felt touched. The man was very young. I think he was in his late 20s. But he had a compassionate heart. Could he have been educated in a Chinese medium school which stressed a lot on filial piety? I wondered.

Needless to say, I thanked the young man profusely. While he stood guard beside my mother as she sat on the chair, I rushed to my car which was just a stone’s throw away.

After I drove the car near to where they were waiting, the young man helped me bring my mother to the vehicle. He made sure the old lady was properly seated before handing me the packets of chicken rice. I thanked him again before rushing home.

I will never forget the young man’s random act of kindness as long as I live. There were so many customers at the coffeeshop that afternoon but only he came to help us.

The least I can do I think is to patronise his stall once in a while. I thanked God for the beautiful stranger’s kindness and hoped God would reward him for his kind heart.

My mother, a dementia patient, climbed the gate in front of my house and fell into a drain beside the gate recently while I was at work. It needed more than 20 stitches to close the wound on her head. She had been in poor health since then.

I decided to bring her out for lunch because I thought the fresh air outside would do her good. In retrospect, I probably should not have brought her anywhere. She had lost a lot of blood due to the cut on her head but I wondered why the doctors at the Emergency Ward in the Sarawak General Hospital did not give her any blood transfusion. Maybe the old lady had enough blood in her body even though she complained about headaches and giddiness.

That visit to the chicken rice stall is the last lunch outing for my mother and I. From now on, I will just buy food for her and let her eat at home. I have learned a valuable lesson. “Don’t play, play” when it comes to elderly people’s health.

Many years ago, my mother almost fainted when she visited the MBKS Stutong Market with one of my younger sisters and I.

We were at a fresh chicken stall when the old lady was overcome by dizziness. My sister and I were lucky because the couple who managed the stall quickly produced a stool for my mother to sit on. Then they called a woman who was selling snacks at a stall nearby to massage my mother’s shoulders and forehead with balm. They were total strangers who did not hesitate to help my mother.

My mother recovered after being attended to by the snack seller. Since then, I have been patronising the fresh chicken stall and that particular snack stall. I cannot thank the people who were total strangers to me then enough for their immense kindness.

Thinking about these incidents made me recall a beautiful song by the late American singer, guitarist, songwriter, television host and actor, Glen Campbell, called “Try A Little Kindness”.

Let me share with you here the first four lines of the lyrics:

If you see your brother standing by the road

With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed

And if you see your sister falling by the way

Just stop and say “You’re going the wrong way…

The incidents also remind me of the parable of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. It is about a Jewish traveller who was stripped of his clothes, beaten, and left half dead on the road. First a priest and then a Levite come along, but both avoided the man. Finally, a Samaritan comes across the traveller. Although Samaritans and Jews despise each other, the Samaritan came to the aid of the injured man.

Jesus told the parable in response to a question from a lawyer, “And who is my neighbour?” The neighbour figure in the parable was the Good Samaritan who showed mercy to the injured man.

I consider myself lucky because I have experienced many random acts of kindness in my life. They make me feel good and encourage me to be kind to other people as well. Wherever you are, remember a little kindness goes a long way.

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