Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sitiawan MYF: Mr. Ling KN's 60th Birthday Bash

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This was the reason we were in KL during the Bersih 3.0 weekend - Mr. Ling KN's 60th birthday. Ex-MYF'ers came from far and near for this occasion. I've not seen many of them for many years though a forum set up by Daboss and FB have enabled some of us to stay in touch. And of course there've always been the CNY get-togethers too. But this one was different. It gave us a blast from our past....

Ah Hea and Alan put it together very well, the reason for the gathering. The reason for the celebration was we didn't want to wait for some wake service to eulogize our feelings and appreciation for Mr. Ling. We wanted him to know that all these years, all that he stood and worked for; we the ex-MYFers are in a way, his kids too, his family. It took a lot of love to do what he and a bunch of other counsellors did for us.
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The oldest MYF batch came from 1962 (yes, there are now ancients among us) and the babies of the group were those born in 1978. Only one batch had no representative, 1967 if I'm not wrong. One would wonder how a group with such a big age gap can come together with such familiarity and warmth. I guess one only will if he went through what we shared together as a group, one that often times transcended beyond the limits of our own years. I met up with Lui again, 5 years my junior. She was my pianist at our wedding. Both Other Half and I wanted to spend as little as possible for our wedding (money wasn't something we had a lot of those days) and these younger MYFers pitched in and did almost everything for us! I will always remember their gestures of love.
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And the man who brought us all together, Keng Neo. And this is how I've always remembered him. He hasn't changed much! He asked us to stop calling him Mr. Ling or Sir after we came out to work. But somehow, it takes a lot of effort not to call him that. So, Mr. Ling, he has remained to us. Some came from as far as Singapore. One even flew in from Indonesia just for the dinner. We were there because he meant something to each of us.

We are a blessed lot. Blessed by the likes of him... Mrs. Tay, Mrs. Tan, Ms. Ling, Ms Teoh, Ms. Tan, Mr. Leong and many others who enabled these people to be a blessing to us. They are the embodiment of grace extended to us because of their humility and a willingness, driven by a love for God. They challenged us, humoured us, gave us chances and ultimately changing our lives. Each one of us owed a little of ourselves in varying degrees to this outpouring of love from them.

As Alan, one of the organizers for this dinner said.... Each one of us who was there that night are where we are today in part because of him (and the others). The hours that he, together with the rest of the counsellors gave us.... They listened, imparted wisdom, became our sounding boards for so many issues including our choices of life partners for some and occasionally even our shoulders to cry on in those tumultous teenage years. Problems big or small, they listened and helped each of us struggled through, not just in words but presence too.

They provided us a place to hang out - the House of Grace. It was a place where we studied, played and hung out. Grace extended in a house built on grace. This was later continued when some of us moved on. In PJ, it took shape in the form of Happy Mansion, an apartment which became home away from home for some, back in those days when we were still looking for our footing. Having solid friends around in those years was good for us. I spent quite a bit of time there, at Happy Mansion. The apartment was always opened to anyone who needed a roof over their head in PJ, for various reasons. Bro was one of the occupants and hence my reason for parking myself there. And its occupants continued to help each other along, sharing as how we've always been taught and shown. Later on, when some of them moved down to Singapore, Peace Tower came about. So from House of Grace to Happy Mansion and then Peace Tower, a little bit of MYF Sitiawan went with us. And throughout the years, the spirit of sharing remained with most of us. In Bangi, a group of them rented an apartment and it too was always opened to visitors.
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For most of us, MYF was a very big part of our lives. It filled our weekends with healthy activities. Friday afternoon meetings were followed by ice-kacang after that. We ran the meetings with their guidance. Games followed Saturday Bible studies and Sunday morning was for church followed by breakfast with friends after service. And throughout the week, games at the House of Grace or school field would be on. During the holidays, our time would be filled with caroling and musical practices. It kept us busy, with little time left for mischief. And not forgetting, preparations for our weeklong camp too, at places like Cameron Highlands, Fraser's Hill, Penang, Port Dickson and so on. We roughed it out on school tables, dormitories and floors. Comfort level was never much of an issue cos the company we were with more than made up for it. We argued, fought and made up. Crushes were aplenty too. Lol! But through it all, we were always reminded that we are God's children. And Mr. Ling was always around....
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For many of us too, he wasn't just our MYF counsellor. He was our Chemistry teacher, a darn good one most will agree, our band master and role model. I think his greatest strength came from his humility. My greatest lesson from him was this... He said to us one day that for him to remain an effective teachers/counsellor, he has to remind himself to remain 17. Being one of us to understand us. Back then I didn't quite understand it but I do! now. He allowed us to try.... and fail. Mistakes and failures were tolerated. And we were continually challenged, to be better, more faithful.... They became the building blocks for the next stages of our lives. That I realize now is probably one of the best ways to learn in life. All these sterile learning that most of our kids go through today.... they give good appearance but lacks substance on the inside.

And so that night, even his sister was amazed by the turnout; the fact that so many from far and near attended because he meant something to us. Like Bersih, we went on our own accord. We wanted to be there. A meaningful weekend. In my life, I've only seen such a gathering twice, the first being Other Half's grandmother. When she celebrated her 100th birthday, people came from far and near too. And you know what, she was also a godly woman, one who gave her life to God's service. She once worked with the young ones too.... and she too was a teacher. Teachers are important. Good teachers make a great deal of difference. Teachers like Mr. Ling KN, Mrs. Moses Tay, Mrs. Tan YH, Mr. Leong CS leave indellible marks in the lives they touch.
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As for the dinner, it's probably one of the best dinners we've attended.... cos we each received angpow from him! Alan and co and thoughfully planned everything. 8) For a brief moment a bit of our youth was relived. Food was good but almost everyone was busy taking a few bites every now and then and moving everywhere, catching up. It was a sit down dinner but felt like buffet instead. We sang some familiar songs... there were sharings from Ah Hea, Alan, Yee Hui, Teik Leong and Samuel. Wendy led in the MYF benediction before we called it a night. Many of us hung outside the restaurant after dinner was over, savouring the moment, still catching up. And quite a few continued over a yam-cha session at the hotel coffee house. Late night suppers, that's what the guys used to do....

My kids do not get to enjoy such kind of growing up years that we had. We were an inclusive group, always reminded not to be exclusive. Everyone was important. Usefulness was not measured by how much talent one had. Service was not indicated by how ready one was. Instead, we moved together, making sure that our weakest link stayed as steady as our strongest ones. And Mr. Ling played a huge role in that too, watching out for these 'else-who-would-have-been-forgotten-kids'. He made them feel special. And when they ran into trouble with their studies, he helped them. Many of us went through our school and university years doing that. The older ones would coach the younger ones who needed it. More often than never, it's not just the subject content that mattered so much. It's the coming together, and encouragement and knowing that someone cared that mattered more. Those things can make us move mountains, dig deeper into our reserves to get to the goal. Every time we went for our hiking session during camps - be it up Gunung Beremban, Penang Hill or Fraser's Hill, we were constantly reminded that we were only as strong as our weakest link. So we included and grew together.... I wish my kids can have that sort of experience.

And that is why so many of us are successful today.... And Mr. Ling has continued to live up to challenges. He retired from teaching and picked up accounting. He is now a CPA! How not to be inspired when you have a gung-ho counsellor who used to tells us everything is possible and he goes on to show us a career change after retirement! 8)


SM Ting said...

thanks for d post n pics...yes '67 wasn't represented and i'm one guilty fella here; just an hour away.

AJ7 said...

Would've been great to have you... we had a blast!

PreciousPearl said...

thanks for the post and the photos - Mr Ling is looking very well for 60! and a few familiar and not-so-familiar faces. So regretful I could not make it :( :( :( but glad u guys & gals had a great time :) :) :)

AJ7 said...

Ah! Another 67er.... 8) Your bro was there! He sang for us!


Time flies... that's when days are filled with things to do. 24 hours feel rather short now but some day, I guess 24 hours in a day will...