Are you happy?

June 14, 2007

This was what was happening to his life.

In school, his lack of confidence bred disinterest. Disinterest bred poor performance. Poor performance further bred disinterest which led to even more wavering marks. It was like a vicious cycle. He tried hard to get out but could not. During his primary school days he was getting mostly average marks for his subjects. His favourite subjects were Arts (where he got to draw and paint) as well as Chinese. Coincidentally, these were the only two subjects he was able to get encouragement from his mom. He would concentrate very hard on school’s art homework to make sure that he got some encouraging remarks from mom – and he did. It seemed to be the only thing he really enjoyed doing. But the rest of the subjects were just borderline marks – even a tutor could not help.

Even though he had a quiet sense of humor, the boy was really not a very happy person outside school. He struggled with his height throughout his growing up years, his complexion during his adolescent years. Having a younger brother who was better than him in almost everything did not help either. He often felt like a born-loser. Agony and anger was building inside him as he fought helplessly against that “fact”. Deep inside he could not accept what he was facing.

Things got worse when he got into Secondary school. His marks plummeted and he was barely making it to the next grade. The English language became a challenge for him too. By the time he reached Secondary Four he saw little hope in getting past the last year of his Secondary school studies – he had already made up his mind to get into one of the Technical Institutes to learn a trade instead of persuing University education. “My family can’t afford it anyway.” He lamented in his heart.

He had just sat for his GCE ‘O’ levels and was just waiting for his results. He would have to get a temporary job while waiting for his results in March. This was the norm. Ever since he turned fourteen, he had been getting vacation jobs to get some pocket money for himself.

It was then that he met his new friend…


Are you happy? You may ask “What is happiness?” Many are searching for happiness yet found them to be very short-lived. Some try to find it in friendships, parties, the company of others, some try to find it in treasures, riches, money, others try to find it in activities, achievements, hobbies, even religion. Many have friends, riches, achievements and religion yet still do not feel happy. How then can we be happy?

Please allow me to share a Spanish word. This word has a very good meaning. Its the word “CONTENTO”.

The word “contento” can be translated literally and correctly as “contented” in English. However, very often you will notice the native using this word to express happiness. When they say “Estoy contento.”, they will definitely say it with a smile. It means literally “I am happy”.

How profound. The Spanish-speaking people equate “contentment” with “happiness”. There are, of course, other commonly used expressions such as “Soy feliz” (I am happy), “Tengo gozo” (I have joy), etc. However, this word “contento” has the most significance to me.

How simple, don’t you agree? To be happy is to be contented (with what we have). To be contented IS to be happy. If we are not contented (with what we already have), then no matter what we will have won’t make us happier. It may make us glad for a while but we’ll soon be searching for what we think we must have to be happy.

That was exactly what I learned from that old vagabond. He was a richer man than most executives, then most who stays in well-guarded landed properties. That man had a smile most corporate ladder-climbers and city achievers try to earn. That man, though he had almost nothing had everything. He was a contented man, he was a happy man.


A new beginning

June 12, 2007

The 16 year old woke up in the morning just like any other day, except that there was some kind of a fresh feeling he never felt before – a feeling he could he not put in words. He seemed to be feeling “lighter” than before. The day was to unfold just like any other days, so it seemed.

He was not aware that he had just stepped into a new beginning. Never could he imagine that the new friendship he found the night before was the beginning of something beyond his imagination 🙂

He was an average boy raised up in an average family. Though he often felt below-average in everything – achievements, looks, height, studies, marks, family background. What else could he do but to walk along a path of a less than average man. But no, everything was just about to change…


As we crossed our paths, the old man looked up couteously. I was expecting to find a dull face full of sorrows and sadness. I was to be surprised.

I saw a smile on his face. It was the most genuine, happy smile I could ever remember. It was a smile of contentment – but with what? Judging from his situation then, he should have many a reason to frown instead.

I learned something from the old-timer. We have the right to smile at whatever our situation iwe are in – it is a choice we have to make. We can choose to frown at our troubles or at whatever good we do not yet possess, however, we cannot choose the consequence of that simple choice.

We can choose to smile at whatever situation we find ourselves in. That short encounter kept me pondering. Where did he get his smile from?

The story began in December 1983… the sun had just set a couple of hours ago. A 16 year old boy found himself amongst his peers sitted on one of the back seats of a performance, his eyes tightly closed, as if trying to concentrate.

The speaker continued to speak through the microphone, but he could not hear any of the spoken words. No, he was engaged… in a conversation.

“If you meant what you just said,” he said in a soft voice, “then I really want to be your friend…”

He could not believe his ears. Someone just extended him a friendship he could not resist. That someone just believed in him.

“I believe in you,” his new friend said, “I accept you.” That was the only thing he could remember.

He did not know it then. Never did he imagine that encounter with his new found friend would change his life forever.

That night, he went home as if a changed person. As he laid on his bed, he whispered, “Good night, my friend. Thank you for the friendship.”


We should never belittle the daily encounters we have – no matter how little they may seem.

Whether they are the aunties (housewifes) we meet at the market, or the roadsweeper, or the principal at school, or the old man who happens to smile at us. They may just be (or have) the answer we have been searching for.

I once had an encounter with a man in a foreign land. I was walking towards one direction and saw him coming directly towards mine. He seemed to me to be an old vagabond, and a very dirty one too. Dressed in rags, beard unshaved and carrying loads of what looked like newspapers and plastic bags. With tanned skin, an untidy beard and entangled hair, he had nothing special in him when I saw him from afar, no, everything about him was just so ordinary. But, looks, can be very deceiving.

Our distance drew nearer, I had a better view of that old-timer. He looked 70, badly tanned (perhaps due to over-exposure to the sun), had an untidy beard and entangled hair.

As we were just about to pass each other, the slightly humped old man looked up slowly, as if to acknowledge a passing stranger – something only a gentleman would do, a gesture that may never be found in our generation today. It was then I saw something..

What I saw was beyond my expectation. No, I saw something that changed me.

Let me begin with…

May 30, 2007

How a man rose from anonimity to significance – an extraordinary story.

… a brief introduction of myself.

Hi, my name is Jonathan. I am a Singaporean Chinese.

Thank you for visiting this blog. I have a nice, simple yet extraordinary story to tell, a story about a Chinese man and the Spanish language… it is of course a true story, an unfolding story, a story that I hope will motivate some out there to believe in the impossible, to believe in yourself,…

You may wonder what a Chinese has to do with the Spanish language, I would too, if I were you. But that is what makes my story interesting (at this point, it may already have awaken the cat inside of you – the cat named “Curiosity”).

In the event, I really hope to make some good friends too.

I invite you to be a part of this story… in what way, we will soon find out. So please stay with me 🙂