THE one time I felt really scared in an unfamiliar physical environment was many years ago when my friend and I got lost in Taman Negara.
Because of a wrong turn, what was to be a simple two-hour track to a riverside lodge took us nearly eight hours. The jungle was getting really dark. The leeches were having a feast. And the sounds of wild animals in the distance made us shiver in our pants.
We eventually found our way to the lodge and quickly lit a kerosene lamp we had brought with us.
In the heart of the deep jungle, the light was truly reassuring. After a dinner of delicious instant mee and a tin of sardines, we turned down the lamp and lit some candles to illuminate the lodge.
Those of us who live in towns may not fully appreciate the beauty of a lit candle in the midst of total darkness. But it is really true that light shines brightest in the dark.
Life is not all sunshine. There are times when we feel like we are walking through very dark valleys.
It could be due to the loss of a job, the death of someone very dear to us, or a recurrent illness where treatment seems to bring more problems than the disease itself.
At times like this, it is only natural that we yearn to see the light.
A person lost at sea is encouraged when he sees the beacon of light coming from a lighthouse. It signifies hope. But the light that we seek at times like this is not necessarily from a physical source. It can come in the form of someone who is prepared to drop everything to help us navigate through our tough times.
It could be someone willing to listen to you, with a box of tissue nearby, without saying a word.
I have, in the past few weeks, felt like I was walking through a very dark valley with no end in sight.
But it is always when I am at the lowest ebb that something invariably happens – a light shows up to brighten up my life.
Last week, I went to see my dentist and told her I would be a real challenge to her this time.
My mouth can hardly open. And from what the doctors tell me, and my own research on the Internet, this is one of the most troublesome side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
I have been having trouble eating, and even brushing my teeth is difficult. I wondered how my dentist would be able to use her tools to fix whatever problems she could find. But she patiently went to work, and spoke to me gently with reassuring words.
The session lasted close to two hours and she managed to do five fillings. It was amazing!
She told me not to lose heart over my mouth issue. Take things one day at a time, she said. “You will be fine.”
And when I went to pay, the clinic assistant smiled and said: “Doctor says no charge.”
Though my dentist knew I could afford the bill, she must have wanted to do something to cheer me up.
It was not about the money, but a reminder that I do not walk alone.
I won’t deny her the opportunity to be the giver, and for me to be the blessed recipient. There is joy in both giving and receiving, if done in the right spirit.
I got into my car and tears just streamed down. I had a good cry before I made my way back to work. Suddenly, the dark valley I had been walking through in recent weeks didn’t seem so dark after all.
By SOO Ewe Jin
Executive editor Soo Ewe Jin appreciates being on the receiving end of kind words, sincere fellowship and heart-to-heart conversations, underscoring the fact that the best things in life are not only free, but priceless.
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.