The art of living with grace and purpose
A small group of friends, some of whom have enjoyed an enduring friendship for over fifty years, meets regularly about once every four months. They meet in a comfortable room of a well-known members’ club in Kuala Lumpur. These meetings, of an informal, warm and jolly nature, usually last for about four to five hours.
The group comprises some former teachers and some former students who have managed to strike up a true and life-long friendship that spans over five decades. Some family members and even friends of these former students express surprise that they are still in contact with their former teachers!
This group has one strong, common and abiding affiliation – they are La Sallians to the core. These individuals either taught or studied at La Salle Brickfields (LSB) Secondary School in Kuala Lumpur.
LSB Punches Above Its Weight
This is one of the many La Salle schools throughout Malaysia. It may have been set up much later than the more established La Salle schools but it managed by sheer dint of zeal, tradition and an ethos that is uniquely La Sallian in character to forge an unmistakable identity.
This school also earned a number of academic, sporting and athletic honours in the sixties and seventies, relative to its size! Today, this school has a distinguished number of individuals among its former students, many of whom are now grandfathers. These individuals have done extremely well in their chosen careers.
Better Known La Salle Schools
Some La Salle schools are better known and have been established for over a hundred years. For example, we have :
- St. Xavier’s Institution in George Town, Penang;
- St. Michael’s Institution in Ipoh;
- St. George’s Institution in Taiping, Perak;
- St. John’s Institution in Kuala Lumpur;
- St. Paul’s Institution in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan; and
- St. Francis’s Institution in Malacca.
A few of these premier La Salle schools are also wonderful examples of outstanding architectural design and build of that time in history. Schools such as St. George’s, St Michael’s and St John’s, for instance, inspire awe and devotion.
True friends are not necessarily those whom you have known the longest. The mere passage of time is not a good indicator.
These are the prominent La Salle schools in Peninsula Malaysia. There are also outstanding La Salle schools in both Sarawak and Sabah.
A Life With True Friends
There is no wilderness like a life without friends; friendship multiplies blessings and minimises misfortunes; it is a unique remedy against adversity and it soothes the soul.
– Baltasar Gracian
Baltasar Gracian captured the overall sentiment about friendship very well. Ponder for a while, if you will, on the accuracy of that bit of distilled wisdom. Can you imagine a life without true friends?
I keep repeating true friends because one has to be able to carefully evaluate just who one’s friends are. This is no easy task because there are, as you well know, all kinds of ‘ friends ‘!
True friends are not necessarily those whom you have known the longest. The mere passage of time is not a good indicator. They are those with whom you have worked or struggled together; those who have supported each other in both good and difficult times; and those who have stood by you in your darkest hours. True friends have thus over the years, through their shared values, created memories of an unforgettable nature. Such friends are really true friends.
It is such authentic friendships that often warm the cockles of one’s heart!
All Kinds of Friends
One category of friends is known as Friends for a Reason. They have somehow managed to have gained entry into your circle of friendship because they have an ulterior motive.
They want some favour(s) from you. If it is forthcoming, then that objective has been achieved and soon they will move on. They will continue to stay, however, if they can reap more benefits.
If and when you retire and you then cannot do much for these individuals, they will disappear from your life much faster than rats from a sinking ship! It may only then dawn on you the kind of ‘ friend ‘ you had!
Then you have Friends for a Season or seasons. These are your friends, not for life, but just for a season or seasons. They may have struck up a friendship with you while working alongside with you at a company or organisation.
It was a friendship based on convenience – not values. They may have gained a lift to work from you or they may have played golf with you on some weekends. The arrangement worked for both of you, at least for some time. Then the person concerned moved on.
At other times, this friendship may have been severely tested by a careless remark or an uncharitable comment. Such friends are not pleased when you are doing well in life. This is a not-so-strange phenomenon of human nature. It is often hard to recover from such personal bruising, intended or otherwise. Once the damage is done, it takes a big hearted person to forgive and forget. Those types of individuals are a rarity!
The Secret To Real Happiness
What is the secret to real happiness? That is, indeed, a million dollar question.
Many are still searching for it. Some think it matters to acquire material possessions… expensive branded watches, mansions, high-end sports cars, helicopters, personal jet planes and yachts etc. The list is extensive if you are in the business of acquiring possessions. Yes, it does provide momentary pleasure from time to time.
From my personal experience, I believe that it starts with one having a clear purpose in life.
As we age, we should also at the same time consciously widen our interests in life and acquire new skills, pursue new hobbies and get to know more individuals. In other words, keep reinventing and renewing! Do not shy away from these activities.
These individuals may be in your neighbourhood, from different professions or they may be business associates or even friends of a friend. Through this deliberate interaction, you are likely to be better informed and more in tune with all that is going on in society.
It also enriches the soul to try and render assistance, on an on-going basis, to as many deserving people as possible. In other words, do not stay aloof from certain sectors but do get involved in the wider society.
Take a leisurely road trip and discover nearby towns and cities. The fun, excitement and thrill are in the journey and not necessarily in the destination.
It is certainly not, as some selfish people put it, a waste of time. Many people have confessed that they have instead gained a lot from all these altruistic activities.
Rent We Pay for Our Room On Earth
Wilfred Grenfell said it wisely when he commented: “The service we render others is the rent we pay for our room on earth.”
That is the reason why so many individuals around the world join community service and leadership clubs like Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis and Apex. They have a desire to make a real and positive difference in the lives of the less fortunate in the community.
Take up line dancing if that interests you.
Learn to sing and yodel.
Learn to play bridge.
Read widely on a regular basis and in that wonderful process, broaden your knowledge.
Seize opportunities to travel and sightsee whenever possible because in the process, you too will gain a new appreciation of life. Take a leisurely road trip and discover nearby towns and cities. The fun, excitement and thrill are in the journey and not necessarily in the destination.
Stimulation For The Mind
Attend CPD talks from time to time because continuing professional development should be a life long process … not just when you are in harness! I recently attended, for instance, a morning talk on a topic of relevance organised by the Malaysian Association of Social Workers. It proved to be a most interesting presentation.
Similarly, I have also attended talks conducted by the Befrienders. This is a well known Malaysian society providing a valuable service for the community. The Befrienders have established a 24-hour life-line for those who are troubled or depressed. Those contemplating suicide often turn to this helpline in the wee hours of the morning.
These much-needed services have been provided because such kind hearted people cared enough to make a difference … quietly, diligently and without fanfare. That is the essence of real community service.
Embrace The Process
In the same vein, I have also attended a masterful presentation on the country’s economic prospects. The presentation was delivered by an eminent professor of economics from a leading university. The list of possibilities offers something for everyone … if only he or she is interested.
Thus education, in its truest sense, should be a life-long process i.e. from the womb to the tomb. Embrace the process gladly and keep discovering new vistas of interest and relevance.
Filling A Void and A Deep Need
True happiness arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self, and in the next, from friendship and conversation of a few select companions.
– Joseph Addison
Coming back to the matter of the informal quarterly meetings and fellowship gatherings of this small group from LSB, I am struck by the eagerness, warmth and cohesion of the group of about eight individuals. They are faithful in their participation, enjoy the lovely and oftentimes spirited banter among good friends and in general look forward with eager anticipation to the next gathering.
I personally think that these discussions of a general nature are often scintillating, brought on by the exuberance of a gregarious group deep in the midst of recalling past glories, humorous incidents, unforgettable personalities and odd happenings. Of course, without a doubt, some drinks and a really delicious meal along the way helped in the process.
I would like to close my post with a quote from Vincent van Gogh, a luminary from the past. He said, “I feel the need of relations and friendship, of affection, of friendly intercourse … I cannot miss these things without feeling, as does, any other intelligent man, a void and a deep need.”
I am, therefore, looking forward to the next such gathering scheduled to take place sometime soon.