[Updated: September 9, 2017]
Here’s an exclusive update to the story.
I published the article on my Facebook (FB) about 1:00pm on August 30. Within a week, more than 10,000 people had liked the post and more than 5,000 had shared on FB alone, apart from a couple of publications who picked it up.
But while many of you were hearing about the story for the first time, Skim Latihan 1Malaysia (SL1M) secretariat head Puan Hajah Norashikin Ismail was already tracking down the boy. Within a couple of hours, she had already made contact.
And just one day later; on Merdeka Day, August 31 – she brought a team of people to Makcik’s home. Their objective? To help assess the condition of the family financially, and to help Hafiz find a job.
Honestly, one of my biggest fears as a writer is writing irresponsibly.
“Did I remember everything correctly?”
“Did I over-exaggerate anything just to make my readers feel something?”
“Am I spreading false news?”
I had exactly those thoughts when writing Makcik’s story. And with the SL1M team ‘turun padang’ to meet the family – I was about to find out the truth.
I know I presented Hafiz and his mom’s condition as pretty difficult. When Puan Hajah spoke to me after their visit – I discovered that their condition was even worse. Makcik’s condition is at least a Stage 2 cancer, and her son is a lot more “special” than we initially thought.
The good news is that people from the Ministry of Human Resources are now working to train and give him support. The current plan is for him to start a small business selling burgers. I hope it works out for him.
Who knows? You might see more of Hafiz and his amazing mom in the news soon. Mass media interest has been great and more coverage is in the plans.
But perhaps what was more amazing for me was seeing all of you who wanted to help. It was heartwarming to see so many of you offering prayers, help, and even job offers. Truly, Malaysians are a giving bunch. As they say, faith in humanity (and the true Malaysian spirit) rekindled.
This might interest you: 10 Habits Of Genuinely Giving People
Finally, I’m thankful that something I wrote touched so many people, and sparked something to action that will maybe change a young boy’s life.
Some of us are called to be writers, but maybe we can’t do much else well. Some of us have great influence, but maybe we don’t have much time to give. And some of us think we can’t do much, but maybe the simple ‘Likes’ and ‘Shares’ we give can help.
Maybe together, we can change a family’s future.
Whatever this story may have brought you, I thank you for playing your part for a better Malaysia. And I hope you will continue to do so.
How it all began
I was in Malacca two weeks ago running a CV (curriculum vitae) clinic with my team, as part of the Skim Latihan 1Malaysia (SL1M) (or 1Malaysia Training Scheme) roadshows. This is where we help check young graduates’ resumes for free – and give them advice on how to make them better.
It’s draining work (where some of my colleagues talk to more than 50 people a day and end up with sore throats), but we find comfort in the fact that we’re helping young people. And every once in a while, a good story emerges; for us to talk, think, and maybe even laugh and cry about.
This is my story from the Malacca chapter, and it nearly made me cry.
* * *
It was around lunch time, so things were pretty quiet at our booth. It was just me and another colleague who was sitting on the other side, so she didn’t see what happened.
A skinny young guy wearing a “Lejen” T-shirt (I shall use the pseudonym ‘Hafiz’ in this story) walked into our booth, followed by a baju kurung-clad lady who must have been about 50-plus years old.
Now I’m sure you have opinions about kids who bring their mothers to interviews, and so do I. But I see it pretty often now, so I don’t really mind if the youth takes charge and the parent reads newspapers at the waiting area.
But Makcik sat down right in front of me, beside her son.
“Di sini boleh buat resume ya?” asked the boy.
[Can we do resumes here?]
“Oh, maaf adik – di sini kami hanya tolong semak saja. Kalau adik ada bawa resume, saya boleh tolong.”
[I’m sorry, we only help to check resumes here. If you brought one, I can help to check it for you.]
“Oh… Mereka beritahu boleh buat di sini…” Makcik replied.
[Oh… They told us we could do it here.]
“Minta maaf Makcik, di sini memang kami tolong semak saja. Tapi mungkin saya boleh tolong ajar macam mana nak tulis resume. Kemudian nanti, adik boleh sambung di rumah.”
[Sorry Aunty, we only help to check resumes here. But maybe I can guide him to write one. Then later, he can continue at home.]
Hafiz and Makcik didn’t object, so I got right into my “What makes a good resume” script.
This might interest you: 4 Key Rules To A Great CV
My resume sample was in English and he didn’t seem very well-versed in the language, so I kept my explanations simple. And since I’ve learnt that with me going on and on wasn’t terribly effective, I quickly ended it and switched to Q&A (question and answer) mode:
“Hafiz belajar kursus apa di universiti?”
[Hafiz, what did you study in university?]
“Hafiz tak habis belajar, nak. Dia sampai PMR saja. Makcik suruh dia habiskan SPM, tapi dia malas.”
[Hafiz didn’t finish studying. He has only studied until PMR. I told him to finish SPM, but he’s lazy.]
This is what I call the ‘third party shame’ moment, i.e. the moment where a loved one (usually a female) uses a third party to hammer home their intended message. And because I usually happen to be the situational “trustworthy big brother”, it happens to me a lot. It’s awkward and I hate it.
I expected Hafiz to roll his eyes or show some sort of dissent. But he was surprisingly quiet, which was when I first realised there was something a bit uncommon about that Mommy’s boy. What was more, I realised he was also shivering; quite badly. At one point, Makcik hushed him, and held his hands to give him some warmth.
“Sejuk ke?” I asked, in a typically obvious Malaysian question.
[Is it cold?]
“Ah ah… Masa kami datang tadi, hujan lebat.”
[Yes. When we came, it was raining heavily.]
“Macam mana datang tadi?” I enquired further.
[How did you both get here?]
“Naik motor, nak.”
[We rode a motorcycle.]
At that point, my respect for Makcik was at an all-time high. But I had some doubts on whether she was spoiling her son by taking charge so much. I can tell she was a hustler – but was she the reason he became a slacker?
* * *
“Okay, nanti Hafiz sambung buat resume sendiri dekat rumah ya?” I said – staring at the person who needed to take charge of his own life.
[Hafiz, you need to continue doing your resume at home, okay?]
“Boleh abang tolong buatkan?” Hafiz asked.
[Can you help me do it?]
I became very irritated.
As every frontliner knows, there comes a point where you’re just wasting your time, and need to get back to your core clients. It’s opportunity cost. Every moment you spend at a lost cause is the time you could have spent making your core customers happy.
I looked up and around to see if anyone else needs help. Thankfully, my colleague was comfortably handling everyone else.
“Takpe, mak tuliskan. Tak susah sangat pun. Tulis nama, alamat, sekolah… Itu saja kan?” I was brought back to our table by Makcik pulling out a white A4 sheet of paper and starting to hand-write her son’s resume.
[It’s okay, I’ll write it. It’s not that difficult, son. Just write your name, address, school… is that it?]
“Makcik, untuk syarikat-syarikat di sini, semua kena print resume dengan komputer,” I pleaded. “Lagipun, majikan-majikan di sini perlukan sekurang-kurangnya Diploma atau Ijazah.”
[Aunty, companies here require applicants to print out their resumes. Moreover, they need at least a diploma or a degree.]
“Tak apa, tak susah sangat pun,” she tuned me out. “Makcik dah tanya tadi… Syarikat ABC cakap boleh. Tapi kena hantar resume. Mereka cakap di sini boleh buat.”
[No worries, it’s not that difficult. I have checked, Company ABC said they’re fine with it; they just need him to send in a resume. They said I can do it here.]
Sometimes your belief becomes your reality. I gave in and helped the two complete their unlikely hand-written resume. As we got to the “co-curricular activities part”, I asked if Hafiz was involved in anything outside of school.
“Dia pernah main bola untuk Melaka. Untuk pelajar istimewa.”
[He played football for the state of Malacca. For special students.]
It took me a while to realise what and how special “istimewa” meant. And then it all started to make sense. We got to the end, and Makcik put down her pen.
It was the ugliest resume I’d ever seen. But, it was also the loveliest.
* * *
But our mission wasn’t complete. I had to bring some decency to a Leaderonomics-checked resume. So I brought Makcik and Hafiz to a neighbouring booth. There, they had computers and printers for rent. And a photo printing service. Between the two of our booths, we will complete Makcik’s mission.
Hafiz left us to take his passport-sized photo. As we observed him awkwardly posing for the camera, my curiosity got the better of me. I would like to understand what makes hustlers tick.
“Makcik masih lagi kerja ke?” I asked.
[Aunty, are you still working?]
“Oh tak, dulu Makcik berniaga, tapi sekarang makcik dah berhenti sebab ada kanser.” She said it so nonchalantly that I couldn’t believe it and made her repeat herself.
[No. I used to do business, but I had to stop now because of cancer.]
“Makcik ada apa?!” repeated the tactless Aaron.
[What did you say you have?]
“Makcik ada kanser ovari.” she said without any emotion. I still couldn’t accept it.
[I have ovarian cancer.]
“Oh, tapi Makcik dah sihat kan? Sebab boleh bawa Hafiz datang ke sini?”
[But, you are okay now since you manage to bring Hafiz here?]
[No, actually it has spread to my liver. But I have to be strong and think positive, as I need to continue my life’s journey.]
“Tak, sebenarnya dah merebak ke hati Makcik. Tapi Makcik tabahkan hati. Dan berfikiran positif. Sebab nak teruskan perjalanan hidup ni.”
I was close to tears and I didn’t know what else to say. So I just helped them complete their mission for the day. I hope it was enough.
May God bless you and your son, Makcik.
* * *
I know I’ll probably never see them again so I needed to write down this story; their story. Maybe it contains a lesson for anyone who’s going through a difficult time in life. Maybe it can encourage you, like how it has encouraged me.
So whether you have a very difficult client, or you’re missing your targets by 65%, or you think you’re absolutely horrible at what you do, I want you to know that somewhere in this world, there’s a cancer-stricken mother who will do anything to send her intelligence-challenged son through heavy rain via motorcycle – to fight for a chance in a world where he’s severely unqualified, and she cannot understand.
And she will brave the cold, not take ‘No’ for an answer, and do absolutely whatever she can for what (or who) she loves and believes in.
And if she can ‘tabahkan diri’ and ‘berfikiran positif’, then maybe you can too.
What did you learn from this story? Share with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
Story originally appeared here.