Sunday, 13 February 2011

Love, actually, is really all around us

MONDAY STARTERS By SOO EWE JIN ewejin@thestar.com.my


WHO is your neighbour? The most obvious answer would be the people living along the same road, to your left, your right, front and back.

You can be blessed with good neighbours who are not only friendly but also look out for your safety and welfare.

Or you could have neighbours from hell who throw rubbish into your garden or scratch your car if it so much as intrudes into one inch of his space. But that is a very restrictive meaning to the word neighbour.

A neighbour, in my opinion, is the person who is placed next to you at any moment in time.

It could be the person on the same bench in the park, or the one waiting in line next to you to board the LRT.
As a cancer survivor, my neighbours are also fellow survivors and their family and friends.

And, what about your neighbours in the workplace? From the security guard to the cleaning lady, from the colleague in the next cubicle to the manager in the room on the same floor, they are not next to you by sheer coincidence.

If we see neighbours in this context, I believe we can then have more opportunities to practise neighbourliness and aspire to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Love, contrary to what the movies tell us, is not about emotion. It is a verb, an action word.

Taken to the extreme, it is possible to love someone without actually liking him, because love makes us want to do something good and right for that person.

For example, if your colleague is looking very sad, you will want to know why, and perhaps do something to help out. Never mind that he or she is a real pain in the office.

At the workplace, many of us have to struggle, on a daily basis, with disagreements over how things are done, or should be done. The problem is that sometimes what is a genuine disagreement on an issue is seen as a personal attack on an individual.

And so the problem remains, and festers to become an even bigger problem.
In the business world, showing love could also mean that integrity must be the basic building block for doing business.

As Ron Ashkenas wrote recently in the Harvard Business Review, “Nobody wants to get involved with a company that lies, cheats, and tricks its customers; nor do people want to work for a company (or a manager) that is dishonest and disingenuous with employees.”

Many Malaysians, whatever our ethnicity, faith or status in life, still lack the understanding on how to disagree without being disagreeable.

Which is why some of the discussions on many current issues, by politicians especially, tend to spiral out of control because we have yet to learn to love one another. There is much wisdom in the saying that we are to hate the sin, but to love the sinner.

Love, therefore, is more than just the celebration of a day, whatever its origin. It is an attitude that helps us to see the needs of others over ourselves.

Love can be expressed in so many ways but I am proud our very own Terima Kasih says it all – asking the other person to “Accept My Love” in thanksgiving.

Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin believes if you forgot to buy that bouquet of roses for your loved one today, but has generally been a loving person the other 364 days of the year, you will surely be forgiven. The headline for today is inspired by one of his favourite movies, Love Actually.

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