A friend dislikes the number ‘13’. On the 13th of each month, she keeps to herself most of the day to avoid bad luck.
On April 13th morning, she sent me an email enquiring about my welfare. This was what I told her, “I have been down over many things. Some days, it seems like several people are angry at me at the same time for things that are not my fault! I am also upset over a few religious people who do things I don’t think their religion would approve of. My guardian angel has been taking a long nap!”
She reverted, “It is April 13, a bad luck day. So be careful.”
But, that day turned out to be an unusual day.
I did nothing else except respond to email all day long about two projects I have been involved in with several others. We are helping disadvantaged women earn income so that they are self-reliant instead of sitting passively at home waiting for donations. Such assistance needs a lot of patience and partnership with many parties because the women have all kinds of problems that few people want to bother with. It is actually less headache to donate some spare cash to them than to be involved in their daily lives. But then, if we don’t do this, they will never have the dignity we envision they should have – holding up check payments for their work with pride.
And self-pride is a very powerful tool. With this, they can solve more of their problems on their own.
The Salaam Wanita project has been helping a group of disadvantaged urban poor women, mostly patients with chronic illness and mothers with disabled children by training them in specific skills and placing them with odd jobs. A group is also involved in making baskets from used magazines.
The Home-based Administrative Assistant (HAA) project trained women with similar disadvantaged situations in computer and we try to get then home-based work because these women have mobility problems. Some of them are disabled and most of them are single mothers who are also patients without any child support. For the last one and a half years, we have been trying to sell baskets on a regular basis to companies under CSR or get donated used computers to the HAA women so that they can work from home. We sent out more than 100 appeal letters and got several used ones. Most do not work well and they give us more headaches than we expected.
That morning, a volunteer wanted to introduce me to a new company that sells personal hygiene products and pours all its profit to charities. The company wanted to buy some baskets from our stock for Mother’s Day because our missions are the same – we are using social enterprise principles to help the poor. What good news!
Then an email from an individual came with a scanned check of Rm20,000 for a young man. He is a salaried middle class man who came to the rescue of a young man needing an urgent operation so that he won’t go blind and become wheel-chaired bound. For the last three years, we took his story to several clubs but no one was interested as the clubs were only interested in children’s homes. Then to a political party which promised that its members would raise the money in no time. That was several months ago and we heard nothing after the promise. And here was one individual donating his earnings to someone he had never met before except seeing his photos and reading his story.
Then, another email came from Good Heart who gave four new computers to four single moms last year so that they could work from home. He heard our frustration of not able to find functioning computers, so he was donating another three new computers to three single moms. I also told him that, after two years of hard work convincing many companies, we finally got a big data entry job for the HAA group. However, most of them didn’t have good enough computers to do it online. Good Heart emailed that he would buy another three computers for the women. And then, he said, “Have Faith in God.”
That afternoon, while I was emailing, the thunder and lightning was terrible. Strangely, my unreliable Internet connection was operating smoothly. Nothing happened to my computer which had previously been struck by lightning many times.
On Sunday morning, he emailed me that he would pray for us in church. Then another email came from a Bahai woman, someone from the Sai Baba movement who wanted a meeting that night on how to help these women.
On April 17, in the midst of a big thunderstorm, Good Heart sent me an email that he and his wife were donating 20 more new computers to another 20 women. I was speechless!
Why did he do this? He told me, “The thought of my mother struggling to bring me up may have something to do with it. Mothers, they can never be replaced, and they do not know the meaning of giving up. God bless them.”
Not only did Good Heart change my perception about Faith, he also taught me one lesson - “Instead of worrying how something is going to come out, spend the time thinking about how you are going to turn it around.”
I thought about these anonymous donors whom I have come across lately. A group donated food hampers to single moms. Someone sent a Rm1000 check through the Star to give to a poor woman. A cancer patient donated her office clothes to the HAA group so that they could go for interviews with proper office clothes. A young man donated cash to help a group of single moms start home-based hamper businesses.
They are of different religions and races. Some of them who sent me emails, I have not even met or spoken to. Everyone says this, “Give to someone who needs the most help, regardless of religion and race.”
As I write this, there is a thunderstorm. Instead of worrying that my computer could get hit by lightning, I say to God, “Protect my computer, please. I have got to get the new computers to the women soonest.”
And from now, I must have Faith even if I feel down on the 13th of a month!