Being a trailing spouse, moving to different countries and cities every so often has become part and parcel of my life. In the beginning, it was not easy giving up my job and it somehow felt like I lost a sense of who I am and what I was supposed to be doing with my life. So many hours of our day are spent at work and my job had become a big part of my identity.
I grew up in a family where my mum is the head of the family. She is a strong independent working woman who taught me to be just that. Reconciling the fact that I was financially dependent on someone else took awhile for me to get used to. My husband has always reassured me that we both are in charge of all of our financial matters, asks for my advice and never in any way made me feel beneath him or like an idiot just because I am not working anymore. Although I can’t say the same for some people I have met throughout the years. Apparently, for a female to be empowered one has to have a job or a career.
For a female to be empowered, she should be able to make a choice without being judged. Do what she wants to do in her life without being told what is best for her and what she should be doing instead. That is true feminism.
Judging oneself is harder and we definitely can’t go through life caring about what others think of us especially those who don’t matter. Instead show them some kindness and we keep on doing what is best for us.
After being diagnosed with a chronic illness called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – an Autoimmune disease, I realised it was a blessing that I did not have to work and have the time to start healing myself with eating a whole food diet which meant a lot of grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning up. In Kuala Lumpur, most apartments do not have dishwashers and I have one of those apartments so cleaning up all the dishes every time after cooking twice a day and sometimes 3 times a day has become an unwanted ‘hobby’ I can’t avoid.
I love to cook and being able to heal myself and manage my illness through whole food and clean eating has become a passion of mine. Not everyone who suffers from a chronic illness has the luxury of not having to work should that be what they want or need to do. So I am thankful and grateful for having this choice.
Something else I have done the last few years is volunteering. I love, love being a volunteer. The first volunteer role I did was as a community visitor at a local Aged Care centre in Brisbane, Australia. Every week, I visited an elderly lady in her 80s whose family were not able to visit her regularly. I read to her and we talked about her favourite television programs. At times, she was very moody but always happy to see me. That was the start of my journey towards kindness, being kind to someone who is a stranger without expecting anything in return from them is an amazing feeling. It lit my heart with happiness and put a smile in my soul.
Helping someone in need and giving back in some way to humanity teaches us to be kind and compassionate to others and makes us realise that life does not revolve only around us, our loved ones, friends and family. Life, love and humanity expands beyond that.
After we made the move to KL, I registered with the The UN Refugee Agency, Malaysia. I started teaching refugee children English every week. When I first started teaching I was apprehensive. How am I going to manage a class of 20 kids aged between 7 to 10 years old? I don’t even have kids of my own, what have I got myself into here?
Let me tell you, it has been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences I have had in my volunteering journey so far. It is not easy teaching a bunch of active kids but somehow I went with the flow, got them to pay attention in class and engaging them in my lessons. I thought that I was teaching them but these children were the ones teaching me. They taught me strength which I didn’t know I had.
They possess so much kindness, happiness and resilience given the situation that they are in it is amazing. During one of my lessons, I noticed some of the students were a bit slow with writing down a passage in their books. When I went over to find out if they were struggling with the work, I realised that not all of them had an eraser so they were waiting for a classmate who had one to pass it down so the ones who didn’t have an eraser could use it.
Seeing these children show such kindness and share with each other what little they have, be happy with what little they have got, greet me every time with a huge smile on their faces and give me a high-five when I leave makes me realise all the blessings I have in my life that I take for granted. I realise I could do better in my own life.
I love my students. They are so smart, kind and generous. Given the opportunity, they could achieve so much more and be able to live their dreams to the fullest. I am glad to say some of my students have been given new homes in the US and Australia and I know they will now have the opportunity to give back to society and live their dreams to the fullest. It has been a hard road for them and I doubt that they will waste this chance given to them.
Volunteering gave me much more than just monetary validation or career progression. It taught me to be kind to a fellow human being and to see the beauty in everything and everyone even if it may prove difficult at times. To be persistently kind and approach every situation and deal with every difficult person with kindness. It is not easy but like a muscle which gets stronger with use, the ability to be kind gets stronger with practice.
Below are some of the places I have volunteered at and if you live in any of these countries, do give them a call, NGOs and charities are always in need of volunteers and they will welcome anyone interested in joining:
- Heart Foundation, Australia
- Cancer Council, Australia
- Meals on Wheels, Australia
- Australia for UNHCR
- The UN Refugee Agency, Malaysia
Volunteering opened up my heart, enriched my soul and rewarded me in ways I never thought possible. To be able to bring some happiness to others and not asking for anything in return is a joy in itself.
What are your volunteer experiences or in following a path towards kindness? I would love to hear your comments!