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Saturday, 01 October 2016 00:00

Blooming of a Pure Heart

Written by  Sia Ah Tong, KL & Selangor / Translated by Lee Yuk Suat

The phrase from Master Cheng Yen, “It’s ok to be illiterate, but one must know about reasoning”, has greatly encouraged the 76-year-old Goh Cheng Lian to pursue Tzu Chi’s mission. [Photograph by Chan Tuck Meng]

Slightly hunched, Goh Cheng Lian stood in front of the washing basin cleaning a pile of cutlery. The granny has always performed her tasks silently.


Born to a poor family in Melaka, Goh Cheng Lian never attended any formal education in order to help her parents to take care of her younger brother. She had worked as a kitchen assistant at a Western restaurant in KL for over 30 years, and picked up fantastic cooking skills. She was able to clean, arrange and also organize all cooking utensils, cutlery and crockery well. She even learnt simple English to communicate with people. Therefore, she was treasured by her supervisor.

However, as she had worked in the kitchen for a long time, she developed a strong temper which brought her into conflicts with the chef from time to time.

After her retirement, Cheng Lian stayed home and prepared meals for her children. She thought that once her son got married, she would help care for the grandchildren. However, her son was always busy at work and often returned home late while her daughter-in-law, who holds a high position in her company, was often occupied with meetings. Married for more than ten years, the couple has no intention of starting a family. A worried and frustrated Cheng Lian has repeatedly asked her son to adopt a child but it was to no avail.

Cheng Lian then lived her life daily by waiting for her son and daughter-in-law to return home for dinner, often watching TV alone at home. Day after day, she was shocked to realize that her brain has started to degenerate hence she immediately returned to the workforce by becoming a kitchen assistant at a nursery, preparing food for the children and cleaning up the premises.

Seven years passed and although she is now 76 years old, she still works every day. At the nursery, she began to recycle resources and send the recyclables to Tzu Chi Recycling Point at Bukit Rimau. It was through this encounter that she got to know Tzu Chi.

Ability to reason despite illiteracy

At the recycling point, Cheng Lian would untiringly involve herself in resource classification without interacting much with others. Chen Wen Yen, a seasoned Tzu Chi volunteer, who stays two streets away from Cheng Lian’s house, learnt that it is not convenient for Cheng Lian to attend Tzu Chi’s activities at night. So, she volunteered to drive her for training sessions and meetings, thereby allowing her to know Tzu Chi better and to partake in various activities.

In 2014, at age 74, Cheng Lian became a trainee volunteer. As she felt she was an elderly who had no formal education, she felt embarrassed to do sharing with others. Nevertheless, she is serious in learning and would remember all encouraging words by heart.

She once heard a phrase from Master Cheng Yen: “It’s ok to be illiterate, but one must know about reasoning.” This was encouraging for Cheng Lian. She also realized just how simple it was to carry out Tzu Chi’s missions. She remarked, “Do what I know and learn what I do not know!”

At a volunteer training, she met the late Yee Kok Yan, who suffered from cerebellar degeneration, and was touched by how he valued time and treasured every minute to contribute. This had encouraged the aging Cheng Lian to do the same while she is healthy.

Since she is more familiar with recycling, she would talk about recycling whenever she meets anyone, be it her relatives or colleagues. Her neighbours even kept recyclables for her and this had boosted her determination. Thus, she allocated a space at home for storage of resources.

Turn worries into Bodhi

Cheng Lian seems to have good chemistry with volunteer, Tan Boon Hua’s 13-year-old son, who would accompany and assist her during activities. She once said during a meal that her rice was a bit hard and the youngster immediately brought her a cup of water. She was most touched by his action. Although he is not her grandson, he has been very caring and understanding towards her. In the world of Tzu Chi, Cheng Lian has had the opportunity to love more children.

Previously at work, she was often troubled when she had conflicts with colleagues and would show her angry face. After joining the study group, she had learnt to have a calm heart and a right thought. Hence, she would remind herself to stay calm when having conflicts with others. She discovered that when her emotion is relaxed, she does not get angry easily and could even propose to her colleagues to work together and settle conflicts swiftly besides making matters simpler.

During another volunteer training on July 24, 2016, Filipino volunteer, Michael Siao shared that his parents understood and accepted their son’s decision not to have any children as this would allow the husband and wife to have more time for Tzu Chi’s activities. Upon hearing that, Cheng Lian instantly felt grateful to her son and daughter in-law for their filial piety and for not having grandchildren. The latter has enabled her to involve herself more with Tzu Chi.

Do whatever I can and learn whatever I don’t know

Through volunteer training, Cheng Lian has broadened her perspectives, built her confidence, doubled her courage, and evoked her compassion. She recalled that once when she was at a departmental store, she saw a pale gentleman running with cold sweats and leaning next to a worried woman. She immediately went over, held and massaged him, and fed him water while the spectators called an ambulance. She left the place with a peaceful mind after the gentleman was sent to the hospital.

During a home visit, she met an Indian care recipient, Ravi, whose legs were amputated due to diabetes. Lying on the floor with a suppurating wound, he was screaming in pain. Unable to control herself, Cheng Lian ran out of the house and cried. Several days later, Ravi was hospitalized due to wound infection and later passed away.

In witnessing sickness and suffering, Cheng Lian felt that there are indeed many needy people awaiting help. Hence, the urgent need to seize the time and provide service to others.

Apart from this, Cheng Lian has subdued her bad temperament. She started to care for her neighbours and clear the misunderstanding between them. She said to her neighbours: “Worries are like the rubbish and fallen leaves. Always pack them and let the garbage truck take them away. We will then feel happy having a clean ground. In short, let the worries go away.” With this, there is harmony among the neighbours.



When one’s heart is open, it will not hurt others; when one’s thought is pure, it will not hurt oneself. Whether it is environmental protection, home visits, cleaning of Jing Si Hall and community centre, Parent-child Bonding Class, study group and other activities, Cheng Lian will certainly be there as long as she is around.

Just as her name in Chinese means “undiluted lotus” (Cheng Lian), she is taking the nutrients from the Earth. She shared: “Because I have done it personally, I have something to share; because I am still learning, I am improving.”

 

After joining volunteer training, Goh Cheng Lian has broadened her perspectives, built her confidence and doubled her courage. [Photograph by Chan Tuck Meng]   In many activities, Goh Cheng Lian could be seen performing her role seriously. [Photograph by Chan Tuck Meng]

After joining volunteer training, Goh Cheng Lian has broadened her perspectives, built her confidence and doubled her courage. [Photograph by Chan Tuck Meng]
 
In many activities, Goh Cheng Lian could be seen performing her role seriously. [Photograph by Chan Tuck Meng]
 
Goh Cheng Lian and Tan Boon Hua’s 13-year-old son has bonded exceptionally well. They often keep each other company in many activities. [Photograph by Chan Tuck Meng]  

Goh Cheng Lian and Tan Boon Hua’s 13-year-old son has bonded exceptionally well. They often keep each other company in many activities. [Photograph by Chan Tuck Meng]