Last week, we organized a Christmas party for an NGO I am volunteering in since the beginning of this year which reaches out to women in crisis (homelessness, prostitution, domestic abuse or human trafficking victims). While we were planning for the event, I noticed the menu only had rice, mee hoon, meat and eggs. So, being the health-freak I am, I exclaimed “How can we not have any vegetables?” to the volunteers like it was so important. So, I offered to cook the vegetable dish so that everyone will get a well-rounded nutrition for the party.
At the party, as I flitted from woman to woman to hear their stories, I hear of someone losing a daughter, homelessness, going hungry, unemployment and many more. I have heard their stories, but somehow, I needed to hear them again to realize that the things we fortunate people find significant, are irrelevant to these people. Our first world problems are completely trivial when your basic needs like shelter and food are not even met. These women are not even rural folks, but people who originated from places such as Bangsar, Kampung Kerinchi, and other parts right smack in the middle of urban Kuala Lumpur. How can we be so ignorant to think that the majority are like us? If you draw a binomial curve, the middle big bump would not be us. We are at that small tail of the curve, we are extremely privileged. A good life has changed what matters to us such as health, job satisfaction, vacations or downtime, work-life balance, and many more. We have become shallow and have completely out of touch with the urban poor, and even more so, the rural folks. Worse still, we deem them shallow when they change jobs for RM100 more or accept polical campaign benefits to vote for a particular party. Do we even realize how significant RM100 is? It is 35.7kgs of rice. It is 282 eggs. It is 14 meals at an inexpensive restaurant. It is 18L of milk. (Source: Numbeo.com) But to me, it is 6 cups of my favourite caramel macchiato. I am a shallow, privileged brat.
As I watched them finish up my mixed vegetables; a glorious traffic lights coloured concoction of nutrition burst of capsicum, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, baby-corn, I am contented that everyone had a balanced meal even if it did not matter to them. Food is food, not going hungry is good. I hope and I pray someday, I can help at least one… just one of these women care about eating her recommended daily allowance of 4.5 portions of vegetables. It would be considered a little victory because I would know that her basic needs are already taken care of, that she has a roof over her head, a job, clothes on her back, food in her fridge... that she can be free to think of things like, eating her vegetables.