There are people who are invisible to the world. The jobs they do go unnoticed for various reasons, but without them, there will be disorder and chaos. Every organisation has such back-end workers who silently support the company’s functional and operational aspect.
My primary school teacher once told me a story that I remember until today. Through her story, she illustrated the difference between a rubbish collector and a king. In our society, no one would willingly choose to become a rubbish collector, a sweeper or a cleaner. These jobs are often seen as dirty and low class whereas a king is highly honoured, served with the best of the best and receives royal treatment wherever he goes.
She then asked, what would happen if both the king and the rubbish collector stopped working for a month. Yes, the king is needed to maintain order in the nation but the rubbish collector has a very pertinent role to play too. Imagine what would happen if our trash does not get sorted for a month. Not only is our health in danger but so is the country’s reputation. Health, well-being, businesses, tourism and much more get affected.
Yet, do we bother acknowledging those who work hard to keep our country clean – regardless of whether they’re locals or foreigners? These are among the invisible heroes that we should celebrate, or at least respect.
There is a small community of former rubber tappers living in longhouses that are located close to my housing area in Kuala Lumpur. There’s a woman – from the community – who comes by my area regularly, to collect recyclable items. My father took notice of this and decided to build a wire mesh basket to place all our recyclable wastes so she can collect them easily.
My mother on the other hand, would pack pre-loved clothes and instead of donating it to charity, give them away to our neighbours’ maids. It was a small gesture but it made the maids so happy!
One scorching hot day, I was craving for some cold juice. It had been stored in the refrigerator for a few days but I never really fancied it until that day. When I got home, I immediately hit the fridge only to learn that it was all gone. Clearly annoyed, I asked my parents what happened to all the juice boxes only to learn that my parents gave them away to some road sweepers who swung by our backyard and asked for some drinking water. My frustration immediately subsided. I was in awe as I then realised my parents are great role models.
If it’s not for their kind and friendly gestures, I wouldn’t have learned to appreciate the underappreciated. What they’ve done are simple and random acts of kindness but it left a big impact on me. These acts makes you grateful and helps you see the story behind everything we enjoy in our lives today. Even the rice we eat daily has a story of sweat and sacrifice behind it. There’s always something that is more than meets the eye.
Growing up, I was initially inspired by videos and acts of kindness that had heightened my awareness and inculcated a deep desire to do the same – notice the unnoticed, appreciate those we so often miss out, and do something nice for people occasionally.
I’ve always been surrounded by people who make a difference but don’t realise that they do. I’ve seen them greet security guards, toilet cleaners, cashiers and waiters by name. These people make it a point to get to know others who serve them, they initiate conversations and even go the extra mile by giving them something on special occasions.
It shows a personal initiative to adopt an internalised practice that is centred around love and leadership. It is selfless in nature because there are no hidden reasons that facilitate such acts.
We can emulate such examples anywhere, even at our workplace. Small gifts, little handwritten notes, or just taking that five minutes to listen a colleague who’s struggling with work can impact our environment, or our relationship with our colleagues.
At the end of our lives, we won’t be remembered for the deadlines that we’ve met or deals we’ve closed but we will be remembered for our loving gestures. As the saying goes, people may not remember what you’ve done but they will always remember how you made them feel.
So, whether you call it acts of kindness or personal practise and principles, I hope this article has encouraged you to continue doing and appreciating these little things. I can assure you that a simple “thank you” can go a long way. Your acts may remain unseen but their impacts are visible to the heart’s eye.