He spoke fluent English. And even Malay. With a mop of white hair and big grandfather glasses, there was something about this man that told me he wasn’t always a taxi driver. True enough, he says he’s been driving for 6 years.
“What did you do before this?”
“Are you a teacher?”
“Oh, you work in the science lab?”
“No, I research Malaysia’s rubber trees… anything you want to know about rubber trees I can tell you… from the seed to the latex to the Rubberwood…”
“Rubberwood?! You mean they actually use the wood of rubber trees?”
“Yea! Your furnitures are made of Rubberwood. Rubber trees are known as Malaysia’s Oaktrees!”
“…I didn’t know that. At least I learnt something new today.”
He also tells me that rubber seeds have been modified. It used to take 7 years to grow a rubber tree. But if it’s only latex they’re after, they can make a skinny rubber tree grow in just 3 years.
“There used to be a rubber plantation near where I lived. Where are the rubber plantations now?”
“…most of them have been turned into housing estates.”
“Yea that’s what happened to the one near my area.”
Now we’ve passed the massive jam and were halfway to my train station. Something my boss said this afternoon came to mind.
“…the years have seen much that the days haven’t, my boss said today. I am sure you have lots of wisdom and have seen much. If you could give me one advice on… life… or anything… what would it be?” I was really curious what this old man might say.
“Don’t give up.”
“Hmm. Why? What does “don’t give up” mean to you?”
“Don’t give up means don’t give up.”
“I know what it means… but why is it meaningful for you? It must mean something for you to pick this–out of so many things–to advice me… does it mean something to you?”
“…don’t give up even when you have problems… I have lots of problems!! A fountain high!!!”
“…Oh. Is it financial?”
“I am in heavy debt!”
He tells me about his problems with the Ah Longs (the illegal moneylenders in Malaysia). It sounds like he’s blaming them for his own decisions. But I can imagine his distress and anger, and needing a point of release. I kept trying to ask why he’s in debt.
“Is it a habit?” (I deliberately avoided using the word “bad habit”) He wouldn’t say. And I wasn’t expecting his next revelation.
“Two days ago, I wanted to commit suicide!” And then he recited the prayers he prayed before planning on dying.
Next, he said, “Do you know the best way to kill yourself?”
“Hanging! Do you think hanging is good? There’s no place to hang yourself!
Poison! Do you think that’s easy? You’re going to suffer so much pain before you die.
Cut your wrist! 3 days ago, a taxi driver cut his wrist and died. Do you know how long it takes before you die when you cut your wrist? It takes too long!
Jump from the building! Do you know a man who gambled in a casino in Singapore jumped from the building but landed on the net? You want to jump and die–but you can’t!
So do you know the best way to die?”
In the midst of this, I was beginning to panic a little. Hence the little distress message on fb. Apparently nobody cares hahs.
“No I don’t. What’s the best way to die?”
“I won’t tell you… But this morning I saw a doctor… and I changed my mind! I won’t give up! I’m going to fight back!”
He tells me his plans. And it’s not a very good one. “What’s your name uncle? I want to pray for you tonight.”
“What’s your surname?”
He has no idea… these two names combined, is significant to me.
“I’ll pray for you. I pray that you’ll find other ways to solve your problems… I know talk is easy and your situation is hard… but I’m sure there are other ways and God can help you find it…”
May I invite you to send out a little prayer for this man, David Chong. He’s very old and he’s still out there on the road. He may deserve his problems–but he deserves compassion too. Pray for him.
ps: If you actually took the time to finish reading this, Hello to you! We’re only 4 days into the New Year. I hope your day has been worth smiles and filled with wonder. And if not… “Don’t give up.”
“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours.”- Swedish Proverb
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