On May 9, 2018, we Malaysians carried out our duty at the polling stations and voted for a fairer, better, and more just country ‒ one with greater opportunities for all.
As we watched the historic results coming in, we all felt renewed hope and a sense of possibility: the possibility of a brighter future as a newly ‘reborn’ nation.
Our 14th general election was a true triumph for hard-working, warm, decent people across the country who, in a singular fashion, decided to create positive change for their lives and the lives of their children.
We were truly one as Malaysians ‒ a concept that became the unifying symbol for all of us who stood up for democracy in a collective effort to plant the seeds for a better tomorrow.
As expected, many people experienced a whole range of emotions as we heralded in the new era and saw out the old.
Some were angry (and still are), others were relieved, most were overjoyed, and many were unsure about what the new changes would mean for the future of our country.
But the prominent feeling I observed in the aftermath of the results was that everyone, now more than ever, felt deeply proud to be Malaysian.
More importantly, we saw each other as fellow Malaysians with the same values, striving to work together towards the great future we’ve always been capable of achieving.
How will you serve your country?
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
– John F. Kennedy
Although it has been more than 100 days since that momentous day, we are now at the beginning of a new road.
We know deep down that life won’t magically get better simply because we have a new government in place.
In fact, a huge part of our future is yet again in our hands, and not just with the new government.
To borrow from former United States president, John F. Kennedy, we Malaysians surely have a duty that extends beyond the ballot box; a duty that calls on each of us to do what we can to make our great nation even greater than it is.
Our country has an abundance of talent and potential, and I truly believe there is nothing we can’t do to empower each other, make our communities stronger, and help to transform Malaysia in a way that consistently shows the best of who we are and what we can achieve together.
No country is perfect, and no country’s leaders are perfect ‒ neither in government nor in business.
It’s understandable that people might desire to focus on what went wrong in the past and who’s to blame, and certainly we’re all entitled to whatever feelings we hold about certain people and situations.
Personally, I prefer to focus my energy on the contributions I can make. In the light of Malaysia’s historic election on May 9, I’m inspired (as I’m sure many of my fellow Malaysians are) to help others around me in whatever way I can offer my service.
Surely, it takes a strong government to help a nation rise, but it takes each of us to offer our own contributions through our strengths and talents to build up our communities and the people around us.
The #MalaysiansBoleh challenge
With this in mind, I thought I’d like to issue a Malaysia Day challenge to everyone who reads this article.
Let’s call it the #MalaysiansBoleh challenge which we can kick off on Malaysia Day 2018.
It is a simple challenge.
In honour of all those who have made this country great and given us so much (e.g. parents, teachers, health workers, community leaders, non-governmental organisations, security guards, etc.), I invite you to ask and act upon the following question I asked myself the day after the elections:
“What can I do in the coming weeks and months to give back to my community?”
To give some examples, you could do something as small as smile at a stranger who makes eye contact with you; offer to volunteer at a local charity; donate blood; help someone you see struggling, or help a colleague meet a challenging deadline.
There’s no end to the many ways you can give back to the community.
Whatever you choose to do, there is no prize to be won, and there’s no one holding you accountable should you wish to take up the #MalaysiansBoleh challenge.
Some of you might enjoy giving back more and decide to extend it beyond the weeks and months ahead.
However you choose to proceed, it’s all about continuing the spirit of togetherness and community that has strengthened over the last few months.
The power to change is in your hands
Whichever ruling government is in place, we all have the power to help transform Malaysia.
While some might feel apathetic towards politics and politicians, we should never be indifferent towards each other.
When we make the effort to help, to connect, and to empower others, we directly make a positive impact on someone’s life, right there and then.
To me, that’s what being Malaysian is all about: coming together in solidarity as one community, where people are always ready to lend a helping hand where it’s needed.
Of course, being Malaysian is often about coming together over good food, too!
(And treating some of the poor amongst us may be part of your #MalaysiansBoleh effort.)
Just after the elections, I read a book about trauma and suffering.
There has been much pain and suffering for many in Malaysia over the past years.
How do we heal the racial pain? How do we help heal the pain of poverty? How do we help heal the educational woes?
There is much for each of us to do.
The interesting thing about trauma survivors is that they can either bounce back (to their old lives and pain and depression) or they can bounce forward (to positivity and a new life).
Let’s work together to help everyone ‘bounce forward’ and not bounce-back. We need to forgive.
We need to not only think positively, but also have reality thinking – knowing that everything will not be fine simply because we think it will be, but face the situations we are in and help fix it.
Tying it together
That is what #MalaysiansBoleh is all about. It’s a challenge to be ‘real’ and not just positive.
Being real means making a difference, even in a small way.
Even having honest conversations with the people who we are upset with starts the process of helping to rebuild this nation, one person at a time.
So, as we Malaysians move forward into this new chapter of our great country, I hope some of you will join me in the #MalaysiansBoleh challenge.
Let’s come together in recognising that it’s not just the people in government who make a country what it is.
Every single Malaysian has a stake in the future we’re building together, and that future begins by serving each other to the best of our ability and empowering our fellow Malaysians to believe in their potential and realise the power of their dreams.
Roshan Thiran is the founder and CEO of Leaderonomics and will be taking on the #MalaysiansBoleh challenge. He looks forward to every single Malaysian rising to this challenge to help, heal, support, forgive and grow each other. To share your #MalaysiansBoleh challenge stories, post them online. Follow Roshan on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to see some of the stories he will be highlighting from Sept 16, 2018 onwards.