Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Lesson from Mr. T

I love riding the buses here in KK. It is always an adventure, from the music to the people to paying the right person at the right time, I always enjoy myself.  Actually, my first bus ride in KK was so crowded that I was literally sitting on a man's shoulder the entire trip.  Ridiculous.  One of these days I'm going to take a video for you to experience the craziness with me.  But, I especially love when I get to sit next to someone who I end up having a conversation with.  Once, I was next to a woman and her adorable baby and talked about her children and what I enjoyed most about Malaysia.  I learned she was from the Philippines and moved here with her family because Malaysia offered a more hopeful future for her and her family.
My most recent bus ride, I sat next to a man who did not look like a local, he looked more Middle Eastern, so I wasn't sure if he would speak Malay or English or neither.  So, I asked his name in Malay and he answered.  He had an Arabic name that I can't remember for spelling, so let's call him Mr. T.  Mr. T was from Palestine and between my broken Malay and his broken English, we learned about each other's lives.  He is a business man in the Likas area, he has 3 children, and his family moved to Malaysia from Palestine because of the oppression the Palestinian people face.  He has not gone back to Palestine since leaving, but was excited to learn that I had been there a few years back.  Through a smile, he told me that Palestine is not good for Muslims, but Malaysia is.  As my stop approached, the man collecting bus fare passed by and Mr. T pulled out his wallet to cover my ride.  My friend I was riding with had already paid for mine.  "Next time," Mr. T said to me.
It is easy to place a generalization on a person, a race, or even a country.  It would be easy to place a stereotype on Mr. T for why he came to Malaysia.  We all know of stereotypes assigned to various races and religions, so I don't feel the need to spell those out for you.  The point I want to make is that every person has a story and a reason for doing what they do.  Mr. T had a story of oppression and seeking a life that did not cause him to live in fear.  Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country which does allow freedom of religion.  Like most countries, from what I've observed this freedom isn't perfectly practiced, but overall people live in peace here.  Thinking about Mr. T, look at what he has fled from.  He's left his homeland which is being torn apart by conflict to come to a country where his race and his religion are not factors for discrimination.  For me, that is something to be respected.
People are moving more and more in our world today, immigration is something that many countries are experiencing and working to figure out the best way to manage.  My hope would be that as we look at who is coming into our towns, states, and countries, we look at why.  We don't immediately place a judgement on these people, but we find out their story.  From stories, people become people--unique individuals with emotions and reasons for living.  And once you are looking at a person and not an object, any ideas you form or decisions you make come from a completely different place, a place of empathy for another human being.

Hopefully there will be a next time, Mr. T.  I'd like to learn more from you.

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