Going round to Kak Z's is becoming part of the umrah trip for me. I am sometimes too embarrassed to visit her as she treats us too well. On the first time we met her, she asked us to sleep over at her place. On the second visit, she fed us dinner, calmed us down, prayed for us and made sure we got into Mecca safely. And on my third visit, she made me cry. Not because she was mean to me but because her stories touched me.
Kak Z is a single mum of five children. The children are much older now but she recounted to us the time when she was struggling to put them through school. On one year, she was a little short of cash and it was time for the schools to reopen. She needed some money to buy new books for her eldest son but she had some difficulty withdrawing money from the bank because her ATM card was damaged. She told her son that she would buy him one book for the first day so that he can copy down what he needed for each class, and tear out the used pages for the next class. (Don't want the teacher to notice that he wasn't using a new excercise book for the new school year.) But the son, being young, grumbled and cried.
"Mum! its my first day of school! Why can't I get new books like everyone else? Do you think my friends won't notice that I will be tearing up the used pages? What if my teacher scolded me for not having all the books needed in school?"
And which mother will let her child go to school without his books knowing that his friends may make fun of him or his teachers might scold him? She searched high and low round the house but she really did not have any money at hand at that time. And it will take a few days for her to sort out the bank account card.
She was really sad, and she couldn't do much about it except to pray. She prayed to Allah to help her and her children. She prayed for him to give her strength. She prayed for him to show her the way to solve her problem.
Then she decided that she will pawn off one of her gold necklace. It was a gift from her late husband but it was more important to her that her children will go to school happy.
When she and her children open the door to go to the shops, they saw two huge cartons outside the door.
"What's this?" the boys asked.
In the boxes were new books for the school year. There were quite a few of them too! Also there were two plastic bags containing thobes (local men's dresswear or jubah in Malay.) The children were overjoyed.
"But children, these items do not belong to us. Put it back at once! Perhaps it belongs to our neighbours and some one may have put it at our doorstep by mistake!" She cried.
"But Mother look, there are two envelopes here and each envelope had our name on it," cried the elder of the boys who could now read.
"It must be ours!"
And in each envelope was $1,000. A gift literally from the sky. From a kind and nameless benefector.
"It came from Allah," she said. "Perhaps He inspired one of my late husband's friends or neighbours to be generous to us. At my darkest hour, the gifts came."
Up till today, she still doesn't know who the generous benefactor was. But the timing of the gifts was impleccable!
Her story really reduced me to tears. Because it made me realised how lucky I was and how selfish I have been. I almost blew some money on another handbag I don't need. (It was Prada afterall!) And there I was hearing the struggle of a single mother, bringing up her orphaned children.
How very selfish I have been! What am I so afraid of? Whatever difficulty I have experienced in my life, it is nothing compared to what this admirable woman had to go through!
Perhaps this was Allah's way of telling me not to be afraid. That with every problem he posed us, he will give us a solution, if we asked Him to help us.