AMAL MUSES, JANUARY 2019
The Year Of Gratitude
By Amal Ghazali
With the emergence of the New Year, I found myself once again packing my bags for yet another adventure. This time, it was West Sumatera, Indonesia, for about a week. It was a rather immediate decision, but I’ve come to learn that the best things in life always seem to unravel during moments of unplanned, random occurrences.
It would almost appear that being there was the perfect breath of fresh air to commemorate the appearance of yet another year. A creature of habit, I always seem to make it a point to make an official list of what I would like to achieve, and plan my whole year around them. A lot of people seem to think that making new year resolutions is such a cliché, but for me it’s a way to form solid aims and goals, or otherwise I would feel like I’m just drifting about while another year passes me by.
West Sumatera is a beautiful place. I spent most of my time around Padang, and there were times when I found myself in small, off-the-grid towns. The kind of low key places you wouldn’t find much information about on Google, with no ‘real’ tourist attractions and hardly any Westerner in sight. Unlike the more popular areas of Indonesia, the small towns were modest, with people living simple lives based on mainly agriculture or farming. No fancy restaurants, no five-star hotels, and not even Grab service in some places.
But let me be the first to tell you about how nice the people are. The locals are even nicer than your usual Asian-nice. The hospitality is great, crime rates are low, and people are so kind and helpful to the point where you begin to wonder if there is a CCTV planted somewhere by the government to monitor everyone’s behaviour. Despite the fact that these people work hard and have a generally tougher life than we do back home, it is easy to tell that they have a higher score of contentment in their day-to-day lives.
First World Problems
If you’ve been meddling with the Internet long enough, you’ll notice that there is a coined term called ‘first world problems’. What this generally mean is the need to assess trivial problems in a manner as though they are life-shattering, when they are not. This is absolutely common, especially among my generation within a privileged lifestyle. Some examples include but may not be restricted to; complaining about low internet speed, whining about being bored with an everyday job that pays well, or taking the comforts of a financially stable life for granted.
Admittedly, I am certainly one of those people who often ponder on these ‘first world problems’. Sometimes, I would come across an unfortunate event, and I would hone in into this specific problem, with little regard to everything else in my life that’s going well. I think about how my house isn’t that nice as the ones I see in interior magazines, when in fact I am so lucky to even have one. I am quick to feel bored with my corporate work, meanwhile forgetting that some people are struggling to make ends meet with minimum wage or hard labour.
My real low point once came when I was having a terrible day and found myself thinking, “nothing right ever happens to me!” How dare I? There I was, in nice clothes, driving my own car, back from a job that has allowed me to travel and live comfortably, while talking to my parents who have always been there for me, and I had seem to not notice any of these great things in my life. I was a prime example of someone with a lot of privileges and very little gratitude.
Act On That Gratitude
It’s easy to say that you’re thankful for the life you’ve had. But it’s not enough to just say you’re grateful. Anyone could do that. To really cultivate the appreciation, action is required. And no other action shows it better than doing something for the benefit of other people. Selflessness is epitome act of gratitude over the blessings you have.
I am not saying we should all start joining a hunger-relief missionary or sign up for UNICEF. But maybe, with the start of the New Year, I could begin with the little things by investing my time for other people, spending more time with family, helping out friends more often, or the occasional local volunteering work. Even charity, as little as giving out a couple of ringgit to the less fortunate, is a great little reminder of how much we have. The comparable value, for example, of how little 5 ringgit means to us versus how significant it is to someone else, is a great opportunity for self-reflection and humility.
And perhaps, with better humility and bigger gratitude, we could all experience yet another year with an improved perspective, and eventually, a more contented life altogether.