When Sharifah was a child, her mother impressed on her that kindness, generosity, cooperation and forgiveness must be extended to everyone regardless of their race or religion. She was told that these qualities are gifts within all of us and by sharing them with family, friends and neighbours, we live a satisfying and happy life. Now at 68 years old, Sharifah is a widow with 4 children and 10 grandchildren and she continues to share the gifts that her mother believed are inherent in all of us.
Sharifah has been residing in the same flat for the past 20 years. She knows who has moved out and who has moved in. Every evening, she is at the ground floor with neighbours whom she counts among her closest friends. Together, they chat about their day and often, what they could do to keep gotong-royong or mutual help among neighbours alive. Occasionally, when they receive some food from well-wishers, they pool it together to cook a meal that is shared with other neighbours. Once, with a gift of 10 chickens, they provided chicken curry for more than 100 persons after each contributed something from their own kitchen.
2 months ago, Sharifah and her friends noted that there would usually be more gifts of food during Ramadan. Hence, they thought that it would be a good opportunity to provide their neighbours; especially older persons who find it challenging cooking for themselves, a warm evening meal during the period. So, they wondered how they could go about setting up a cooking area on the ground floor where they gathered. As they asked around, most people told them that it would not be possible but as they persisted, neighbourhood grassroots leaders consulted their Town Council and the National Environment Agency on their behalf.
For the past 10 days, Sharifah and her friends start cooking from 4 pm and their neighbours pick up their meal about 3 hours later. Meals have included porridge, biryani, nasi lemak and no item is served 2 days in a row. Sharifah’s family is proud of her and they recognise that gotong royong is a practice that she would like them to adopt. A daughter told us that she remembers her grandmother often putting “others before self” and was not surprised to see her mother taking after her.
Community begins when we believe that we share a connection with the other person. We may be connected by interests or shared beliefs, by familial or loose ties or simply by where we live. Residents in public rental housing do not own their homes but often these homes belong to them so much, they strive to continually upgrade their living environment and circumstances. Homes are improved by the presence of family and friends and the conviction that together they can always make life better.
Enjoy your weekend.
Not one of us can enter Nirvana until all others have gone before us. – The Bodhisattva