EID 2016 : behind the meaning of ‘charity begins at home’


I find this phrase constantly misinterpreted or misused by people to alleviate their guilt against being too generous. For instance, when we help Syrian refugees or the homeless in Kuala Lumpur – we are met with ‘haters’ arguing why go so far to help Syria if you could help Mak Ton at the kampung 5KM away. Well.. if you happen to stay near Mak Ton , then go ahead, no one is stopping you from taking action as opposed to just being ‘kesian’. There is no need to categorise Charity and make people choose.

Every NGI or samaritan has different goals and purposes – at least they are helping to make a difference to that one life they come across. The above phrase should not be made to support ‘kera di hutan disusukan, anak sendiri mati kelaparan ‘. It just shouldn’t. The latter proverb was meant to demonstrate a person being selfish or unable to prioritise. That is not charity.

This year I made my annual holiday visit back to my hometown Kuching, Sarawak. We stayed at LimeTree Hotel (a special entry on that later)


As usual, it was a visit very joyful and boisterous since I brought my mother along. I wanted her to be happy and being able to see her siblings and other relatives there. We practically drove her everywhere and everyone she wanted to meet. Naturally, we met a lot of people from all walks of life – some well to do, the rest not so much. Some have happy families, a few are broken to pieces.


Each house visit or ‘berjarah’ as we call it – was a life lesson to learn and digest for my family and I.

Lesson on Patience

This was perhaps the numero uno lesson we learnt multiple times. We had to endure long hours of elderly folks tale which were reminisced as far back to the 1940s. We had a hard time differentiating facts from fiction as we were unsure whether the storyteller had dementia to begin with. Not only that, the ‘laughing session’ too was difficult to go through as the same jokes were repeated from one house to another especially when we were visiting the same string of siblings house. But we understood that this was one of the few forms of elderly entertainment one gets when technology and apps like FaceBook or Twitter is so alien to them. The stories weren’t a bore, in fact rather entertaining – just on loop mode.

And of course we had to be patient when people started asking us about a second child or specializing. Not that we haven’t been warned by social media but this is something youngsters nowadays must be prepared to put up with. Older generations have no malicious intent when they ask these things – its just part of the conversation. There is no need to retaliate by asking them back, ‘you’re getting old – when are you dying?'” as suggested by some social media accounts. Kau ni biadap ke apa? Tkde rasa kasih pada orang lebih berumur?

Once we grasp the idea of being patient – we knew better to hold our tongue and construct our sentences in a polite tone. It does not hurt to be gracious. Even my young son Ee is learning to withhold his innocent urges. One night, during a house visit, he was so sleepy and wanted to go home but knowing that his grandmother was still in the middle of an amusing conversation with the other guests – he did not threw a fit and forced everyone to go home instantaneously. He did not say ‘dah.. jom jom’ out loud. Instead, he whispered to Mr Husband that he was tired and such. Mr Husband acknowledged his problem and muttered a response that he’ll need to be patient and we will leave once Grandmother’s done. My son waited quietly at the chair and we allowed him to exercise his patience too for a while (like another 10 mins) before finally signalling to my mother that we really need to go home.

Lesson on ‘listening more’

Sometimes we forget that those elderly relatives we are visiting were once young people just like we are. If they were previously English speaking executives – you would most likely still hear them conversing in English. apa ingat dah tua.. cakap Melayu jak?

Thus it is interesting to see how with age their perceptions on life becomes more relaxed and less materialistic. Yes, importance of continuous education be it in a formal institution or on the streets are emphasized even more. So are values of being a woman when it comes to raising a family. But now apart from talking about their glory days they too impart crucial advice about living life itself. To explore. To travel. To have proper human interactions – we had to praise ourselves for not checking on our handphones frequently as we immerse ourselves in their stories and such.

Lessons on Charity

Charity does not always have to come in the form of alms or money. It should instead be cultivated as a state of mind. The act of being kind and benevolent to each other. And this is something we can teach ourselves and our children.

Empathy is Charity. If we could put ourselves in a less fortunate persons shoes we soon learn that we tend to have more than them. And that we could help them improve their lives in one way or another. These help can be in the form of advice, motivation, yepp.. monetary aid or at times as simple as lending an ear or a shoulder to cry on.

Diligence is Charity. When you care about your job, perform your duties well and dare to take on bigger responsibilities  – that is also a form of charity. Especially when others could benefit from it. Imagine a diligent book keeper in a small town takes great pride in his choices of book collections and magazine choices – he is not only doing something that he loves but also sharing that with his town members as he leads them to discover useful interesting literature around them.

Or take a shopkeeper in a small town who prouds himself selling fresh fish and vegetable to the customers daily. He not only will gain financial profit for his business but unconsciously will set a trend of healthy eating among the people in his town. It may seem like something of no choice at first, but later people will thank him for helping them keep on a good heart and low cholesterol levels (medically speaking)

Righteousness is Charity. Which is something really hard to get by these days – adab and akhlak. A moral compass. Us younger generations are trapping ourselves into the web of championing human rights and all sort of #fightfor manifestos that we sometimes end up breaking the hearts of our parents or teachers who taught us morals not through self help  or parenting books but from examples and hand down family values.

Righteousness may not have a theory or hypothesis behind it – sometimes its just an act of doing something with well meaning intentions which makes you feel ‘right’ about it. And accepted by the major public.

And these are things you can learn and teach at home -starting from the young to the eldest member of the family. The next time you think about the phrase


treat it as something along the lines of


3R : Read, Reflect, Respond

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