Bench of Blessings

16 April 2020 (Day 10 of Circuit Breaker)

One afternoon, before 2012, I was sitting by the window of my old flat just looking at the rain trees outside and the badminton court below. It was the June break so I had lots of time to be still.

Then I spotted a man with a backpack making his way to the cast iron bench at the periphery of the badminton court.

He had a dark complexion and was dressed like one of those hundreds of young foreign workers I saw at Mustaffa Centre.

It was a work day so it was unusual to see a worker sitting by himself.

My flat was on the 7th floor. By the time I really noticed the man, he had already sat down. And so I could see only the top of his head,his shoulder and his backpack.

Perhaps something about the way he sat told me he was troubled. And suddenly almost without realising it, I found myself addressing the top of his head with, “Whatever is bothering you, may you be well.”

I wasn’t feeling particularly kind when I made that prayer, if it could be considered a prayer at all. In fact it came out of my mouth almost mechanically.

And as if he had heard me, the man got up.

It was then I saw that one of his hands was newly bandaged.

He must have gotten injured and was taking a rest on the bench after returning from the clinic.

And as for me, I’m glad that I had been spared the shame of making unfair remarks of a man looking “so free,” when the opposite was more like it.

That episode always pops up in my mind during social gatherings when harmless chats can often spiral downwards into trading unkind remarks on others whose lives we know nothing of, in our attempts to sound “interesting.”

And over the years I have avoided meet ups that I feel can make me judgemental or worse still, condone irresponsible speech in my efforts to fit in.

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