Uncategorized · June 22, 2010

What memories does your plate of rice evoke?

Last week, I was conducting training for a volunteer group. We had just finished a session on Sympathy and Empathy and were now on the lunch break. One of the volunteers sat down next to me and I just have to share this story with you.

The volunteer sat down next to me with her plate. In her plate, she had rice, some mixed vegetables on the side and had poured some of the curry chicken sauce over the rice.  As she sat down, she looked down at her plate and smiled. I asked her what was so amusing about her plate.

She said that it reminded her of the good old days. I asked her what she meant.

She replied that, many years ago she had been kicked out of her house by her husband (they subsequently divorced). Overnight, she and her 4 children were forced to fend for themselves without any financial support from him. Friends stepped up and offered lodging and other help but she knew that for a better future for her and her children, she had to make it on her own again.

She and her children ended up staying in a flea ridden shack that only had one room which became their kitchen, dining, living, study and bedroom. Her children had a  good and secure life  snatched away from them in one night and ended up living in conditions not fit for humans.

With a smile, she looked at me and said “You wouldn’t believe the size of those fleas..! But those were the good old days, when we only had rice, some vegetable and curry, the sauce only, not the meat, mind you. This plate reminded me of those days.”

Me with my Fried Noodle, Chicken Wing and Curry chicken on my plate, was dumbstruck. How should I respond? Should I say something sympathetic? Something emphatic? In the end, I could only come out with a lame “Those were the good old days? I’d hate to know what the bad days are. Ah…hahaha…”

As I got up to leave the table, I could not help but be awed by this lady’s inner strength. She had related her story without any hint of anger, remorse or hate. It was just…what it was…nothing more, nothing less.

Next time you fix your plate up, pause for a second and look at what you have in your plate…does it remind you of the good old days? What memories does your plate bring back? But most importantly, whatever memories our plates evoke or bring back…ask yourself…are you at peace?