A heart full of grace

str2_1405_p7a_4colsHaving the right values makes all the difference, our columnist observes.

LET me begin by saying thank you to everyone who sent lovely messages regarding my last article, Behind the Curtain. Although it was a departure from my usual fashion/work related topics, I just felt strongly about the issue. Being a mother, I am very concerned about the values that we impart to our children.

On the same subject, I’m pleased to say, I read about another celebrity (courtesy of social media, again!) who believes in “being with the people”. When flying back to Britain from the United States, Prince William flew economy class! At first I was surprised, but then I thought about his mother – Princess Diana – who was known to be a very warm person, and very loving to her sons. She obviously imparted the right values to them.

It’s so important to teach our children good, old-fashioned values such as respect and concern for people. It’s also important for them to learn about the value of money, which is easier to do while they are still young and impressionable. For example, I give my son Max just RM2 a day as pocket money for his school snacks. I’m sure many people will be surprised at how little this is, however, it is more than enough for his needs. It allows him to buy nasi lemak bungkus as well as a drink, with 20 sen to spare! He saves this 20 sen everyday so that, after a while, he can treat himself to something special. In fact, today he asked if he could pack an apple and cookies for school, so that he could save even more money.

His lesson on the value of money began during his school holiday, when I offered him a job – RM5 for two hours’ work which consisted of cleaning up the beads cabinet. His reward may sound pitiful, but the way his face lit up suggested otherwise. He started his work slowly, but consistently and after an hour, he asked whether his time was up. I said that no, he still had one hour more to go. When he realised that he’d only made RM2.50 for what seemed like an endless job, he exclaimed: “I worked so hard and only managed to make so little!” to which I smiled and replied “That’s right, Max. Now you know how difficult it is to make a living!” What amazed me was that he didn’t give up, but perservered and earned his RM5. I felt so proud of him!

Back when I was studying at Sri Garden, KL, I remember selling snacks and handmade craft for charity. There used to be some kids, as young as seven, who’d carry RM10 and RM50 notes in their pockets. Bear in mind that this was over 20 years ago, when every ringgit was worth more than it does today. We were in a school where everything, including the food, was provided, so I didn’t understand why their parents allowed these kids to carry such large amounts of cash. Even though I was a school kid myself, I felt bad for these children. They would grow up thinking that it was okay to spend money with such ease.

As I’m writing this article, I’m in Hong Kong – a city full of survivors. You can tell that from the way everyone power walks around the city, and from the way they work. If you slow down, you will be left behind. Life is a struggle for many people; I have seen pictures on the Internet of people here living in matchbox apartments – really tiny and claustrophobic. I feel for them, and remind myself how lucky we are to be able to lead the lives we do – in comfortable homes, with comfortable cars, with no worry about having food on the table.

I realise there are so many people in the world who are not so fortunate. According to the United Nations, about 21,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes. That is one person every four seconds. And most of them are children. Statistics like these are really heart-wrenching. We cannot help everyone or even most of them, but we can still make a difference in little ways, which would add to quite a lot. So, let’s all try to make a difference.

In the words of Martin Luther King: “Everyone can be great. Because anyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve … You don’t have to know the second law of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” On that note, have a great month of May!


> Award-winning fashion designer Melinda Looi tries to marry consumerism and materialism with environmental consciousness. She believes her greatest creations are her children. Send your feedback to star2@thestar.com.my.

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