Remember Their Smiles…

Many years ago, I’ve had the good fortune of participating and helping out in The Sharity Gift Box. I was excited and thrilled as the crowd gathered at the carpark opposite Centrepoint Shopping Center for the opening ceremony. I got to be at the counter, collecting the symbolic first gift from the Guest-of-Honor and placing it to the gift storage area.

For the whole duration of the event, the gifts stacked up against one another. They accumulated in not only sizes, but also in numbers. Sweat were dripping from our foreheads and back as we transported and carried these heavy gifts of canned food, biscuits, instant noodles, giant toys and any other things that the public would donate.

Back in the Headquarters, we had to sort them out and pack them into the bags for distribution. It was done under a large made-shift tent, heaty and stuffy, not to mention the smell of sweat.

Over the days, we worked hard and kept each other going with constant bickering, even though the arms are tired and our backs were sore from the constant bending and squatting. At least we started to behave like a human being. We complained. (Hey, I was just a boy.)

Then came distribution day, I was leading a few of my friends to one of the assigned areas. Our job was to give a bag of different food and daily neccessities to each household.

The corridors of those housing estates were poorly lit and dark. The sky was filled with greyish clouds, providing warning of the rain that threatened to pour.

I knocked on the first door, no one answered. I carried on knocking and eventually the door opened slowly. My friends and I were greeted by a frail old lady in traditional blueish shirt and dark blue pants. She must have been almost eighty, a face full of wrinkles, cheeks with pigmentation that spoke of her harsh younger days. She was thin and weary, no wonder it took such a long time for her to get to the door.

Her house was small and stuffy, hardly enough room for more than a couple of people to live. In some corners, old things like newspapers and cookie boxes piled unto each other, threatening to toople, and the sink was choked with bits of previous instant noodles. (Think I noted a few ants conversing with each other.) The bed was just a simple worn-out matteress, with yellowish fading covers. She lived alone.

Then it happened. Flashed across her boney face, was a smile. A smile that was so sincere and so true in emotion that it made all the hard work at the Gift Box worthwhile. It made me forget my own sweat and toils, and reminded me of the real purpose of my effort. To bring a smile. A smile of human touch and connection.

She struggled to muster a few words of gratitude and relief in cantonese, “Oohh… so happy you are here. I’ve been waiting a long time for you.”

We unpacked the bag of food and neccesities, tidied up her house a little, and knew its time to be on our way.

When we bade her farewell reluctantly, I noted in her left eye was a twinkle of water, a tear perhaps. As she struggled to close the door she knew another bout of loneliness awaits her, but her smile was still here…

House after house, knocking on door after door. Similiar encounters unfolded before me and sincere smiles of gratitude and appreciation welcomed me.

My friends, in the midst of hard work we sometimes forget the purpose of why we work so hard. In the thickness of work politics and gossips, we sometimes sink into pools of complains and lamentations. We often just look at the minor discomfort that lies in front, that we could not see the destination that stretches ahead.

After all these years, these images still stick vividly in my mind. It always bring a tear to my eyes. Not a tear of sadness, but a tear of reminder and purpose. It never failed to keep me focused, never failed to keep me going and never failed to remind me the real purpose of my work as a speaker and trainer. To bring a smile, a smile of human touch and connection.

Remember the people you serve.

Remember their smiles…

Explore posts in the same categories: Excel Beyond Excellence, Passion, Perspectives, Reflection and Thoughts

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