Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us could do great things, but we could do small things with great love.”

* * *

March 2010. It was almost sunset. We were on our way down from Kuala Terengganu to Kijal. I was looking hard for wedding presents for a friend who’s getting married that April, but I could not find anything suitable yet. We wondered whether any shops would be open at this time of the day, as it’s almost prayer time.

We stopped by at a small road-side shop selling home decorative crafts (and some useful stuff too), mainly made of mengkuang and rattan. An elderly man came to greet me and showed me around his dusty little shop. For every item I touched, he’d tell me the price, followed by its discounted rate. He followed me around but not in an uncomfortable distance.

Honestly I couldn’t find anything for my friend.

It could have been any other shopkeeper, but this man is different. He is kind, patient and polite. Even when the sun almost setting, he did not ask me questions about why was I still running around at that hour, why was I accompanied by just two ladies, where are the men, etc. He did not grumpily follow me around with a close distance. He did not make any kinds of faces other than a friendly face.

So I bought two items from him, which I found the use a few months later.

* * *

I was in a mamak shop in Kota Damansara very recently. I was eating mee goreng mamak and obviously the sides of my mouth started to feel oily. As there were no tissues, I wiped the oil with my little finger, intending to ask for a piece of tissue from the waiter.

I did not need to ask for one, as when I looked up, one of the waiters was already walking towards my table with tissues in his hands.

Similar thing happened a few years back when I was having lunch with a fine gentleman in a mamak shop. The mee goreng had just been served, and I turned my head to the counter. This gentleman immediately stood up and get the tissues from me, even when I have yet to face the counter.

* * *

My tailor had a problem this Eid season. She got pregnant so she was a little unwell, making it impossible for her to finish all the stitching.

I was told by my mother that she called the day before and told my mother that she could only finish one set of baju kurung for us. So I went to her shop just a few minutes from my parents’ place on the day before Eid. Only her sister was there.

The sister showed me a pair of green baju kurung and it wasn’t mine. She told me that that’s the only pair of baju kurung that she was told to give away. The rest is still not done.

Now that’s not a good news to hear, especially a few hours before Eid. So I asked her, are you sure? As it was my mother who told me that the baju were done, it MUST be ready by now. The girl just stood there and said there are no other pair of clothes done. Just the ones that she showed me just now.

I asked her again, are you sure that it’s not placed anywhere else in the shop? The shop is kind of messy so it might be hidden somewhere. But she was still standing at the same spot and repeating the same answer.

Out of desperation I started searching for them myself. I went through the cupboard and another rail of clothes, and the stack of bags at one corner of the shop (this tailor usually puts the finished clothes back into the bag we sent them in). I managed to find our bag but the only thing in there were the sari material that have yet to be stitched, not the green ones i was looking for.

I wasn’t entirely annoyed that the clothes weren’t done. We have other nice baiu kurung that we could wear during Eid.

What made me angry was that the girl did not even make an attempt to help me with the search. She stood at the desk with her handphone in her hand and a passive face telling me if it’s not this green one then it’s not done.

You see, at least, even when she’s so convinced that the baju kurung was not done, just go through the shop and look, at least an act, just to show that she actually cared, and at least reassure me that she will confirm with her sister afterwards.

* * *

There is a ward in this hospital that is taken care of by a specialist. He has never shown any appreciation towards any of his staff, be it the nurses or the doctors. No kind words of encouragement ever escaped his mouth.

One fine week, he was not around. Another specialist took over for the week. One day this person was doing rounds with the rest of the staff, and as always, the house officer would present to him the cases, helped by the medical officer.

After the house officer finished talking about he patient, the specialist said, “very good.”

The nursing sister of the ward who heard that felt very light in the heart, as if her troubles melted away. Just because of the simple kind words that was given by the specialist.

This particular specialist is rather generous with his praises. Those who worked with him regularly were used to it, and at times don’t think that half the praises were deserved.

But for those staff who were deprived of any kinds of appreciation, a simple phrase like that made a huge difference to their day.

* * *

Narrated ‘Aisha R.A, The Prophet Muhammad SAW was asked, “What deeds are loved most by Allah?” He said, “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few.” He added, ‘Don’t take upon yourselves, except the deeds which are within your ability.”
– Sahih al Bukhari, The Book of Heart-Softening Narrations, No. 6057

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