Let’s discard the “plastic hearts” in us

4 October 2006

Service to God needs no glorifcation

These days it is becoming a fashion to celebrate all sorts of occasions on a grand scale. In fact we look for excuses to have mammoth celebrations such as birthdays, all forms of anniversaries, engagements, wedding, silver, golden and diamond jubilees. Then there are the major festivals of Christmas and New Year and so on.

With our preoccupation with celebrating these festivals and glorifying ourselves for our successes in life, we forget the less fortunate among us. Many of them are in agony and awaiting death to separate them from their loved ones forever.

This true story may be of help to remind us of these unfortunate people around us and make us reflect on how we should celebrate our own festivals and successes in life.

Mr.Z (not his real name) is a 36 year old unskilled worker from Bangladesh. He has been employed in the same company for the last 8 years. He is now paid a basic salary of RM500 a month and if he works hard enough he could take home just over RM1000 after all his overtime claims. He sends most of his earnings back home for his wife and son.

For the last 5 months he has been unwell, seeking treatment at various government hospitals. He now presented with acute complications and has been found to have advanced cancer which has spread all over. Cure is not possible and all that can be done is to palliate his symptoms. He just has a few months to live.

On realizing that he has been inflicted with a deadly disease, he broke down and cried incessantly, saying “Please send me back to Bangladesh. I want to see my wife and son”.

He continued to weep, saying repeatedly “ I don’t want to work, I don’t want the money,I just want to see my wife and son. Please send me back”.

It was a pathetic state watching the young man crying bitterly over his totally wrecked life. Money and wealth did not matter to him anymore. All he wanted was to be united with his loved ones. Only that would bring him solace in the remaining days of his life.

According to Z, during his eight-year tenure in our country, he went back to Bangladesh just once three years ago to get married. After just 2 weeks with his wife, he left her to return to Malaysia to continue with his job. His repeated requests for leave to visit his wife in subsequent years were rejected by his manager, whom he described as a “man with a plastic heart”, because according to him, the boss was devoid of any feelings of compassion for the workers. Even when his son was born he was not allowed to return home for a short visit. His son is now 2 years old and Z has yet to see him.

Little does he know that soon he is going back to his son for the first and last time in his life? His young wife too had just spent 2 weeks with him soon after their marriage. In a matter of months he will have to bid them the final farewell.

All we could do for him is to send him back to spend his final days of his life with his loved ones. This we managed to do with the help of his concerned new superior officer. Z touched me by his gesture to come to bid farewell to me on the eve of his departure. As I shook his hands to wish him luck, I felt sad as I know I will never see him again.

As a doctor I stand helpless to watch this young man slowly dying as the cancer takes its course. How I wish I could cure him of his illness. All I could do is to heal his soul of pain and agony. Not everyone can die cured but at least we can let them die healed. That was exactly what I tried to do.

It is very pitiful that many of us also contribute to this inhumane treatment of fellow men. There are many Z’s in our midst. It is our “plastic hearts” that have caused so much agony to them. As Christians we are taught to be kind and generous, but in actual fact are we? All of us possess this “plastic heart” at some time in our lives.

As we prepare to celebrate our festivities and successes, let us discard these “plastic hearts” of ours and try to cultivate some compassion for fellow men, irrespective of race or creed.

As for Z, we hope and pray that God will grant him peace in love during his final days.

The new trend of mammoth celebrations to glorify ourselves for our successes is also taking shape in our Catholic Church. It is becoming a fashion for Catholics, laity and clergy, to celebrate priestly ordination, jubilees (silver, golden and diamond) and other feast days on a very grand scale.

Many bishops and priests converge to concelebrate the occasion with mass and banquet attended by thousands of people from all over the country. A great deal of money, time and energy are spent on these mammoth celebrations. Unfortunately when the ordinary parishioner is in need we are not there to share his happiness and sorrow.

The Catholic Church, founded on the teachings of Christ, is a Church of the masses but unfortunately today it is increasingly being seen as the Church of the clergy, the rich and the powerful.

May be we should also reflect on the action of Mother Teresa on being awarded the1979 Nobel Peace Price. After initial reluctance she finally agreed to accept it with the following words:

"I choose the poverty of our poor people. But I am grateful to receive (the Nobel) in the name of the hungry, the naked, the homeless, of the crippled, of the blind, of the lepers, of all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared-for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone."

However she refused the reception to honor her probably because she felt her work for God needs no human glorification.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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