Friday, January 08, 2010

They say that after 17 years of marriage that there is little that should surprise us about our spouses. Yet KH still manages to surprise me once in a while.

When you look at him, with his salt and pepper hair, his stern demeanor, his loud voice and Neanderthal ways, you’d never guess that underneath all that thick crust is really… a marshmallow!

Let me cite these two examples.

One Saturday last year, KH brought the kids to Catechism class. Usually he would just drop them off and go but that day he decided to hang around to wait for the kids to finish their class. An old woman came by and asked him where she could “collect money”. He asked her what she needed. Turned out that she always comes by faithfully every month to collect the monthly sum allocated to her by the folks at St Vincent de Paul but that month, she’d missed the collection date for some reason. Every month, the Society of St Vincent de Paul gives a sum of money to really needy households and families. It’s not a lot, about $70 per household. My mother volunteers for SVDP and she tells me how heartbreaking some of these lives are. For only $70 per person (slightly more for a whole family), it’s really not a lot but these folks really need every cent they can get. The money goes a long way to covering meals, groceries, utilities, transport, medical care and so on.

So this little old lady wanted to know where she could go to claim her monthly ‘allowance’. KH asked how much she usually got. He directed her to the church’s administrative office but just before she went in, he stopped her and fished out his wallet. “In case you missed the deadline and really can’t collect your allowance,” he told her, giving her $100, “Here’s something to tide you over till next month.”

She was surprised and grateful and thanked him profusely. When I told him how proud I was of him, he just brushed it off (though I could have sworn I saw a blush!) and told me simply, “What is $70 to us? But it means so much to her and she obviously needed it a lot. It was such a hot day and she was so old, yet she walked all the way to church just to collect $70.” As it turned out, the church was happy to give the old lady her allowance for the month and with KH’s contribution, it was more than decent for her for the month.

The second incident took place recently.

At the dinner table couple of nights ago Gillian was chattering away full of excitement for her upcoming trip to Malaysia with her class. But not all her classmates were going, even though this Sec 3 camp was compulsory.

One them was her classmate, whom I shall call Alice. Alice is from a single-parent family and her mom struggles to work to put food on the table and keep the family together. She’s not a close friend of Gillian’s but from time to time we hear stuff about her and we know the family has their share of problems. This time, Gillian said, Alice can’t go on the class trip because she could not get her passport renewed. Her mom says she cannot afford it.

KH was silent at first then asked: “How much does it cost to renew the passport?”

I said it was probably about $70 to $80 but might take a while and it might be too late since the girls were leaving next week already. KH said, “Look it up on the internet and let’s be sure. But if it’s not too late, I don’t mind sponsoring her renewal.”

Gillian looked at her father incredulously and I swore she saw him through new eyes. Dad, she said, you mean you’d actually pay for it? Pay for Alice to go? Really?

Turned out that it was not too late – just a bit of a touch and go, since both Alice and her mom had to do the paperwork by the very next day in order to meet the deadline. Both KH and Gillian spoke to Alice and her mom. Amid much excited squealing from both Gillian and Alice. Both Alice and her mom were very grateful and very touched. Apparently, Alice’s mom said she had made an appeal via the school’s parent-support group for financial assistance to renew the passport but no one came forward. We never got the appeal and had it not been for dinnertime conversation, we would never have known.

So KH sponsored the renewal fees and the passport photography which roughly came up to about $100 or thereabouts. He said pretty much the same thing he did before: “It’s just $100 – what is $100 really? We think nothing of $100 these days, spending it so easily. But just for the lack of $100 and no passport, a girl could not go to camp and enjoy her time with her classmates, what is that? It’s such a pity!”

Ah that man, he warms the very cockles of my heart sometimes. Okay, most times.

The next day, Gillian accompanied Alice to see the teacher, who was also amazed and touched that someone had stepped forward to do this for Alice. Alice and her mom got the paperwork done. And next week, she’ll be on that bus with the rest of her classmates.

So what is a hundred bucks after all? A sushi meal, a dress, a concert ticket? Yes all those but so much more. A girl’s happiness at being included, my daughter’s new sense of love and respect for her dad, an old woman’s meals for a month...

What can $100 buy?

To me, plenty.

6 comments:

Santhi said...

Thanks for sharing about your dh's generous gestures. It is very heartening to hear about such very kind people. And yes he has given the families more than what money can buy and invaluable lessons for your children.

Cory said...

priceless!!!

I'm so happy for you, dear friend. I remember all those days a few years ago when we were talking about something else completely different and drastic regarding marriage.

I'm very sure your kids will all look at KH through different eyes now. He's a sweet man, and I have to agree, he's a .... MARSHMALLOW!!

mummyof3 said...

awww, how sweet and yes, quite a mushy marshmallow you have there. worth his weight in gold. good man!

Anonymous said...

困難的不在於新概念,而在於逃避舊有的概念。.........................

Anonymous said...

This is so wonderful and heartwarming. Thank you for sharing. - Iris

Anonymous said...

Wonderful sharing! That's how children grow up to be charitable - watching their parents give generously :)