What My Papa Taught Me – Part 3.

by Patrick Liew on February 23, 2014

This was one face-off that I would never forget for the rest of my life. It was not a normal face-off but one that was between a father and his son.

I know that scene well because it was between Papa and me. It happened in his bedroom one evening in 1973.

That evening, Papa had called me in to talk to him.

It was a meeting that I dreaded and one that Papa held with every one of his children when they reached their sixteenth birthday.

Papa sat me down on his bed. He then pulled a chair and sat facing me.

I could see him consciously trying to stay calm and collecting his thoughts.

Our eyes met but none of us wanted to start the conversation.

In my mind, I thought I knew what Papa was about to say to me. My brother who was two years older than me had prepared me for this day.

Papa would repeat the same message he made to my elder siblings. It went somewhat like this,

“You know, Papa has worked very hard to help provide more than sixteen years of education to you.

“It’s getting harder and harder to look after the family and to support you in your studies. I hope that you will do well in your final exams.

“I may still be able to provide for your pre-university education but thereafter, you will be on your own. I cannot afford to help you complete your tertiary education.

“You need to go and look for a job and support yourself.”

That evening, the conversation went completely different.

Papa had changed his usual script and had quite clearly took awhile to prepare for the new one.

That experience was another turning point in my life. It had not only made me respect Papa more deeply, it had also help strengthen my appreciation of education.

Papa took a deep breath. He swallowed remnant of saliva in his mouth.

Then, he held my hands so very gently.

This was what he told me.

“You know, Papa has worked very hard to help provide more than sixteen years of education to you and your brothers.

“It’s getting harder and harder to look after the family and to support you in your studies. I hope that you will do well in your final exams.

“I will help support you to complete your pre-university education.”

He paused for a moment and looked into my eyes. It was as if he wanted to speak right through to my heart.

Then, he continued, “I have always wanted one of my children to complete a tertiary education.

“I want you to do it.”

When I looked surprised, he must have misinterpreted my expression to be one of scepticism.

He quickly tried to justify his proposal. He told me, “I will work very hard.

“If need be, I’ll take on a second job so that I can earn enough money to support you.”

When I reflected on that life-changing moment, I realized poverty was not measured in just financial terms.

There was more to wealth than having money and other material possessions.

That evening, I felt enriched by the love, care and concern that my parents had shown to me.

I might not have a lot in life but whatever I had was enough to realize my dreams and live a fulfilled life.

Far worst than poverty in financial terms is a poverty of love.

When we cannot love and feel loved, our lack of love will drive us to to a life of loneliness, desolation and abandonment. These are some of the shifting sands on the way down the pits of life.

The true mark of poverty is a poverty of compassion and kindness for our fellow humans.

When we feel we deserve to live well without due regard for others or worse, at the expense of others, our spirit will live in the slums of life.

We can search endlessly in the rubbish bins of life for the next meaningless and short-term fulfilment.

Some day, we will echo the words of the Sage in the book of Ecclesiastes, Meaningless, meaningless, all is meaningless (Ecc 1:2).

Poverty becomes permanent when there is a poverty of wisdom.

When we stop learning and more importantly, stop applying these lessons for the benefit of people around us, we bury ourselves in the highway of life.

As we journey in life, there are many challenges down the road that are looking for a solution from us.

Through the heat of changes and challenges, if we don’t transform ourselves and raise the game, we will soon join the dinosaurs of yester-years.

No poverty sucks more energy from us than the poverty of humour.

When we cannot see and enjoy the lighter side of life, we gradually deplete the energy within us.

This is the same energy that sustains us and helps us pursue a better destination.

The lack of anything may not make us poorer than the lack of contentment.

When we cry over what we have lost rather than being thankful for what we have left, we imprison ourselves.

When we are not grateful for what we have and we pursue relentless for more and more things in life, we are like throwing away a key that can free us from a prison of  life.

A poor bank account cannot hold us back more than a poverty of desire, determination and discipline.

In fact, an empty wallet very often  is a compelling motivation to fill our  life with goodness from our Creator.

As I reflected on how my father has loved and cared for me, I learned these and many more important lessons.

To complete the story, Papa worked very hard to see me complete another four more years of education.

Papa was there to see me graduate with a diploma and from the Officer Cadet School as a young Second Lieutenant.

Unfortunately, he did not lived long enough to see me complete my first and other degree programmes.

Papa, I have continued to learn because you taught me the importance of of being educated.

You were willing to strain your body and even break your spirit so that I could continue my studies.

I will always be grateful. I will continue to learn and apply what I’ve learned to help others.

Papa, I know you are watching over me and listening to me.

I wish you are with me again…


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