Something I am grateful for

by Grace Yeoh (daughter of Stanley Yeoh, YTL)

Grace Yeoh is a winner of the Puan Sri Kai Yong Yeoh Book Prize.

Being a child born in the late 90’s, I was unexposed to the whimsical movie which every child – including my parents – raved and fell in love with: Mary Poppins. “Enough is a feast” is a simple yet revolutionary Buddhist proverb referenced in this film, where the central idea focuses on the confluence of two juxtaposing adjectives, ‘enough’ and ‘feast’. The pair of adjectives amalgamate to create an impactful meaning, revolving around the idea of gratitude and appreciation. This quote strongly resonates with me as I personally feel that our world is significantly lacking individuals that possess these fundamental qualities. It has come to a worrying point, as world leaders who are supposed to be role models towards the younger generation, are filled with greedy ambition and devoid of generosity. If this continues at its worrying pace, there will be unfortunate dire consequences such as the destruction of natural beauty, corruption within governments and rising poverty levels.

My parents are humble individuals, who constantly extol the negativities of overindulgence. They were successful in cementing the values of gratitude and appreciation, and that I should be thankful of all the opportunities I have been given. Being firm believers of good education, they constantly reiterate how lucky I am to attend a well established school, having the ability to gain a kaleidoscope of experiences and the ability to cultivate my knowledge. During Year 11, I studied a poem titled “Convergence of the Twain” by Thomas Hardy. This poem had a profound personal impact on me as I was able to heavily empathise with the context – that we should not feed off greed. The central theme of this poem focuses on the union of two ideas that are in tension with one another; it highlights mankind’s desire to build the unsinkable ship – the ‘Titanic’ – in an attempt to feed their ego. Humans essentially believed that the ‘indestructible’ Titanic could overpower natural forces, and this ultimately lead to their downfall as they were engulfed by self admiration. This poem resonated with me as it perfectly embodies the negativity of overindulgence.

Being a relatively religious individual, I perceive overindulgence to be a sin as it progressively develops greed, conceit and arrogance. These degrading qualities are the main reason for the growing income disparity across countries. Despite having a high GDP worth 18569.10 billion US dollars in 2016, USA has faced a widening income inequality gap throughout the years, having a Gini-coefficient of 0.316 in the mid 70’s to a Gini-coefficient of 0.378 in the late 2000s. I personally feel that the desire to be wealthy and successful is the main culprit of this. The salary of a typical chief executive of a large American company is 120 times that of a manufacturing worker today, compared to a mere 35 times in 1974. This reflects the unfortunate reality of the financial sector, illustrating how selfish human nature can lead us to do unspeakable actions such as this – indulging in prosperities at the expense of the lower income group. It is simply appalling how overindulgence drives us to behave like this, to an extent that it questions my opinions on whether humans have a conscience.

My main core values consists of happiness, love and compassion, which is why I feel so strongly about the negativities of excessive indulgence. I strongly believe that these values keep the world in motion, as it creates chain reactions of positivity. Constantly being surrounded by extremely loving individuals such as my friends and family has truly convinced me that ‘Enough is a feast’. Being a perfectionist, I frequently experience anxiety breakdowns due to stress. Having a solid support system such as my friends and family by my side has helped me significantly. It is during times like this, that I strongly resonate with the phrase ‘Enough is a feast’. Through my experiences, I strongly believe that being showered with love and compassion will unfailingly trump being showered with wealth and prosperity. Having the ability to purchase lavish and opulent items may demonstrate your position in the social hierarchy, but due to selfish human nature, contentment and satisfaction will never be obtained.

Holding the position of Director of Media and Advertising in a refugee organization, I frequently spend time with refugee children of ages ranging from 6 to 17. I vividly remember my first encounter with these children, who were so filled with joy and happiness despite their unfortunate conditions. I remember one particular boy, who would make a beeline towards the colouring pencils every session. Curious by this, I questioned him. His simple response of “Because this is the only time in my life I can use colouring pencils” left me grief-stricken. Guilt and shame fell upon me as I compared my situation with his; I take for granted such basic necessities such as having a bed to sleep in whilst owning a bed is on these childrens’ wishlists. Despite being the one with a bed, a family and an education, I was the one at loss. These refugees are untouched by overindulgence, which affects a significant proportion of modern society, even myself at times. This reminded me of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. Syrian children and families have undergone unspeakable violence and conflict, where hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed mercilessly. 5.1 million Syrians have fled Syria as refugees, and a whopping 6.3 million Syrians are displaced within the country itself. Children of ages as young as 3 are mentally traumatised and tainted of their innocence due to the exposure of such brutal and relentless violence. Alongside this, many girls have been stripped of their freedom, falling victims to child marriage and abuse. It was stated that child marriage rates are four times higher among Syrian refugees today than among Syrians pre-crisis and a disconcerting rise in child marriages has been seen among the most vulnerable Syrian refugee populations such as in Jordan and Lebanon.5 However, despite their rough circumstances, these Syrian refugees remain positive and strong. So many of us are clouded by overindulgence, failing to appreciate our lives and current situations, which makes us undeserving of it all since there are far less fortunate people in this world such as the Syrian refugees.

 

If I was questioned to share my thoughts upon this idiom a few of years ago, I may have debated that enough is not a feast. Being brought up in a home, where everything was generously provided for me by my parents, I was ungracious and took most things for granted at a young age. I was insensitive to my parent’s extreme hard work and determination to assure I lived a comfortable life – one filled with education and the exposure to vital life skills. As I began to mature and age, alongside personally experiencing the struggles of hard work, I eventually learnt the importance of appreciation and gratitude. I began to acknowledge my parent’s hard work, and learnt to respect them on a different level, for being significantly adamant towards fulfilling my every wish out of their love for me. I believe that my parents signified the essence of being thankful throughout my upbringing, ensuring that they did not spoil me nor deprive me, which has in return transformed me into a modest individual filled with humility and appreciation towards the efforts of others. And through this, I certainly agree that “Enough is a feast”.

WORKS CITED

Hardy, Thomas. “The Convergence of the Twain by Thomas Hardy.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47266/the-convergence-of-the-twain.

“List of Countries by Income Equality.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, May 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality#Gini_coefficient.2C_after_taxes_a nd_transfers.

“New Study Finds Child Marriage Rising among Most Vulnerable Syrian Refugees.” United Nations, United Nations,

www.un.org/youthenvoy/2017/02/new-study-finds-child-marriage-rising-among-vulnerable-syria n-refugees/.

News, CBC. “’We Can Restart Our Life’: Syrian Refugee Happy to Be in Saskatchewan.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, Mar. 2016, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/syrian-refugees-saskatchewan-1.3833567.

 

“Syrian Refugee Crisis: Facts, FAQs, and How to Help.” World Vision, Feb. 2017, www.worldvision.org/refugees-news-stories/syria-refugee-crisis-war-facts#how-affect-children.

“United States GDP 1960-2017 | Data | Chart | Calendar | Forecast | News.” United States GDP | 1960-2017 | Data | Chart | Calendar | Forecast | Newstradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp.