Strength That Lies Within

I am currently teaching at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). And I want to share a story.

We know that everybody has his or her own routine, every day. Some wake up early in the morning in order to work and hope that tomorrow they will live a better life. While some wake up early in the morning just to go to class and learn, and wish that whatever they get today can and shall be useful tomorrow. In the end, they too, will hope to live a better life like anyone else.

If you are here at IIUM, you will see all sorts of people from all over the world. Many of them come to Malaysia because they want to pursue their dreams. However, some of them claim that they have no choice but to be here. And a few of them feel that they don't even belong here. Especially when they have to go to a certain department where they have to learn a certain language before they are allowed to enter their targeted course. This is where I come in. As one of the teachers responsible to help this group of students, I spend five days a week being in that department, watching them. Sometimes I teach them, but I will say that most of the time, I learn from them.

Don't you agree if I say that we all love to complain? It's like whenever we have the chance to complain, we will happily do it. You don't like this, I don't like that. We will talk and proficiently use the language that we are supposed to learn when we do this. We may not be fluent or accurate in the language, but when we say what we have in mind, all the grammatical rules of the language will suddenly become familiar. We know them like the back of our hand.

But then I look closer. And I see the 50 to 60 year-old students in my class. I look at them. I watch them. I wonder.

They could sit back and relax, while watching movies and listening to songs. They could laugh at all the jokes their sons tell. They could taste all the delicious food their daughters prepare on the dining table. And they could wake up every morning in the arms of a loving partner. They could have all those at home, in their respective country. In this range of age, everything would seem perfect if they could do or have it with the warmth of a family.

But they don't have it.

Instead, they travel a thousand miles away from home, just to be here. Most of us would think, "I am old already, why should I bother going to another country just to have my own scroll?" But these people, they see from a mysterious angle. An angle that perhaps younger people like us don't know it exists. That is why despite their bones are cracking and their health is deteriorating, they come to class to listen and talk, to read and write, and to learn. They could have all the dreams any old man and woman would die to have, but they choose this - something that they can leave behind. They choose knowledge.

So who are we to complain that studying sucks when these people are willing to leave their family and do it here? Who are we to give up doing the homework when these people stay in the class doing it, with both cheeks full of tears because their sons are lying weak on a hospital bed just a continent away from them? Who are we to curse when we don't understand a word in the notes we are reading the night before the exams, when these people miss their daughter's wedding because they need to stay for the finals?

We may not realize it, but the reason we always see things negatively is because we always have a choice. We are in our own comfort zone. But these people, they live every day on what they have on the day. It may not be enough, but they will make do. In order to seek the knowledge they want, they live and struggle for it. And they tell me that there is no such a thing called 'too late to learn'. They show me how strong they are... and that whatever strength they have that makes them this powerful, I can have that too.

We all can.

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