Sunday September 16, 2012
Seeing the real treasure of this blessed land we call home
WHEN I was in my early 20s, what seems like an eternity ago, I went backpacking in Europe.
Up to that point in time, I had never been out of the country before, not even to our neighbours to the north or south.
So I was determined to have my passport stamped in as many countries as possible. Armed with a Eurail youth pass and a guidebook, I flew off to Paris, my first stop, right in the heart of winter.
I chose winter for two reasons. Things were definitely cheaper, and all the youth hostels would have room for me. And since I live in a country where there is “perpetual summer”, I wanted to see snow.
I travelled alone, so I’d make as many friends as I could along the way. I had no fixed itinerary. Sometimes, I would just change plans after talking to someone at the train station who may recommend a better place for me to go to. Ah, the exuberance and innocence of youth.
I am finalising this column amidst the cool mountain air of Cameron Highlands. The small group of friends, including my dear wife, are amazed that this is the first time I have been to this hill station.
I have, of course, seen quite a fair bit of our own country, but at this stage of my life, I feel a greater desire to explore even more. There is so much that Malaysia has to offer.
We are one of few countries where the seas, hills, rivers, forests and lakes are within easy travelling reach.
If you have ever travelled to a landlocked country, you will appreciate the fact that in Malaysia, all the states, from Perlis to Sabah, have a coastline. The sea beckons, yet many prefer the malls rather than the beauty of nature.
But more than just the amazing natural resources, what we have been blessed with are our people. From my visits to different places, I have come to the conclusion that the further away we move from the comforts of urban centres, the closer we get to one another.
When my son was at National Service in a far-off place called Tok Bali near Kota Baru, we celebrated Chinese New Year with him there. And it was such a wonderful experience. We were warmly welcomed by people we met for the first time.
I think when we are not ensnared by the trappings of materialism and the modern world, we begin to talk and interact with our fellow citizens more.
Today is Malaysia Day. It is a day when we celebrate this blessed land we call home. But the real treasure is found among our fellow citizens.
Instead of being cocooned in our own little groups, where we may share similar aspirations and similar grumblings, we need to step out of our comfort zone and into the shoes of our fellow citizens in other communities – including those who walk this same land but may not be blessed with the same opportunities that we take for granted.
The Fox, in the well-loved tale The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, observed: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
When we begin to see things with the heart, it will become clear that here in Malaysia, land of opportunity and plenty, the needs of many still outnumber the wants of the few. May we work towards a day when no Malaysian will be in need. Happy Malaysia Day!
> Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is inspired to see more of the country as he enjoys the cool mountain air at Cameron Highlands.