Learning and Living


Yesterday, I heard someone (a lady) tell another person (a middle-aged man), “Why do you even bother paying for her matriculation fees? She is not even your child. You should stop doing that.”

There could be several explanations why the lady said those words to that man. The man could be paying the matriculation fees of an ungrateful child. He could be borrowing money in her behalf. Or…it could even be as simple as he wishes to a help a person who is not even his own child.

I don’t know the whole story so I am not in position to judge. However,  if the lady’s statement is related to the third scenario I mentioned, it’s so sad that she harbors such kind of beliefs. Since when there was a rule that we should only send  someone to school if she/he is our child? It violates every value I know about education, and what does this make me, my siblings and every person out there who was   able to study through the graciousness of other people?

My dad  died when I was 15. When it happened, it was a common knowledge in the family that we might not be able to go to college if we relied on ourselves alone. Thankfully, we have kind relatives who helped us finance our studies. But it was not a so-so situation. In fact, I found it very awkward to inform my uncle of the schedule of my dorm fees. My mom found it uncomfortable to talk to her brothers and sister-in-law about our school needs. BUT we had to do it. So all the while I was in college, I was determined to graduate on time  because I carried a very heavy burden…the expectations of my relatives. I could not let them down after all the help I received. When I finally got my diploma, I felt so relieved and happy. But more than that, it was such a sight to see that it was not only my mom who got my back… but also my cousins, uncles and aunts. From then on, I vowed I would repay them in any means I can.

Since graduation, I have worked non-stop because I know we have debts to pay. An uncle, the one whom I owed the most debt and gratitude, asked me one day, “Why do you work so much?”.

I replied, “So I could repay all those you shelled out for my studies.”

He replied, “Did I ask you to pay me?”

I answered, “No.”

He then said, “Then don’t bother killing yourself if it’s just for the reason you want to pay me. I helped you go to school because I want you to learn , and be a better version of me or your parents.”

It was then I realized that such kind of people exist…those who help without expecting anything return, and those who are willing to send others to school simply because they wish to see them improve. And in every situation, when I want to hold back myself from helping, I remind myself I have no right to. I received too much from other people that I no have right to not extend the same kind of help to others.

Right now, I have someone in mind that I want to help. He’s a bright kid but his mother does not have the capacity to pay for everything he needs for college. I am still not in the best financial situation but I want to help his mom  even in my own little ways. That kid is not my child. He is not even my relative. But I see no reason why I should be limited  by such definitions. Learning has always been one of the reasons why I love living. I wish that kid could see learning and living in the same light, and not be restricted by his family’s financial situation.

I wish also for some enlightenment for the lady I encountered yesterday and blessings for the man she was talking to. The child he is sending to school may not pay back him someday, but I hope through education, the child he helps will be able to help herself and extend the same kind of kindness to another person.

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3 comments

  1. Mabel Kwong · July 19

    This was a great read, Melissa. I am sorry your dad passed away at a young age, it must have been very hard on you and your family. But good on your for having the dedication to study hard and make the most of the opportunities given to you. When we go through tough times, we learn to be grateful for what we have. And when we do achieve something and the tide turns, we just want to give back. I admire how you are so selfless and thinking of the ones around you :)

    In regards to the conversation between the lady and the middle-aged man: perhaps the man is paying school fees for his step daughter, or the child of his partner. Could be some family tension thing going on. But it’s anyone’s guess, really.

    • milaiski · July 19

      Thanks Mabel! My experience actually weighs a lot on me… i am lucky that I have very kind relatives who made it possible for me to finish my studies. Sometimes I can’t help but be sad that there are many bright children out there who don’t have the same kind of opportunity or support. If we were very pessimistic people, this could be one of the grounds to hate the unfairness of the world. Many talents go to waste because of the lack of means to cultivate them. Therein lies the challenge of how we can contribute to lessen that vicious cycle.

      • Mabel Kwong · July 19

        Those are very wise words. I think everyone should have a right to an education. An education opens up many opportunities for us, opportunities for us to learn about the world and opportunities to help others.

        You’re right. This is a tight vicious cycle. But I guess we have to start from the very beginning – by making sure children have the basic necessities to live on their own first. It’s very sad.

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