The kids attended a terrarium workshop with some homeschoolers today. They learnt how to sit still and wait, they carefully poured gravel, potting mix and sand, and they were proud of their little egg-shaped terrariums. After the workshop, we drove to a nearby coffee-shop for dinner as we wanted to avoid the peak hour jam.
Dinner started off uneventfully. We managed to settle all the kids and ordered our food. We started eating while feeding the younger ones. Then the shouting started. It was this old man who was working at the coffeeshop as a cleaner, and I think he was mentally unstable. He started shouting away, and hitting himself on the head with a chair. He was bleeding from his head.
The kids were scared, but we thought we would quickly finish dinner. The staff seemed to be calling someone for help, so we continued feeding the kids. The man continued shouting and hitting himself, in between cleaning and clearing tables. Aside from some staff who talked to the man and asked him to stop, most customers just continued eating their food. Some left quickly. The shouting scared baby J, who started crying, so my dad brought him for a walk.
We gently explained to the kids about how some people were not sound in their minds (how do you help such young kids to understand mental unstability?). Lil J needed the toilet, so we went, and along the way I talked with him and we prayed for the man. I asked one of the stallholders if we should call for an ambulance, and she said that she had already called for her supervisor.
He continued hitting himself and shouting, and at the end of our dinner he had finished a bottle of beer and was hitting his head with the bottle. We left just as the coffeeshop supervisor arrived, along with paramedics and a wheelchair.
I left the coffeeshop feeling very troubled and sad. We spent more time in the car talking to the kids, who were a little scared. I still do not know how to explain about mental illness to them. But we prayed. There were so many thoughts and feelings coursing through me. If this man was mentally unsound, could he sustain working in this job? (I had a chat with the stallholder and she said these episodes were frequent, and most of the workers seemed to be used to his outbursts.) Was this man going to get adequate support and care? Did he have family to look after him? If no, who was going to look out for him? Where can he go?
It was such a stark reminder, that we are so so blessed. That we have family and loved ones that we can care for, and who care for us. That we have so much: financial stability, a roof over our heads, people looking out for us, the blessing of not having to worry about clothes or food or daily necessities. We live in a safe country where we do not need to flinch at the sound of gunshots.
Our complaints and inconveniences seem to pale in comparison with what some others are experiencing: we whine about bad service and lost mail, we are in a tizzy when our washing machine breaks down, or when our kids spill milk or food or make a mess. We rail at inconsiderate drivers that cut us, and forget that we have a blessing of a car. We complain about leadership, about government, and our bosses, and forget that we have something that some do not have: jobs that pay us money, a country that provides us with a comfortable life.
As I left the coffee shop today, I realized that it is not enough to just survive. We must count our blessings. We must choose joy. We must remember that we have so much. We must ask ourselves: what am I thankful for?
And I learnt today, it is not just enough to ask and be thankful. Where we are is enough, but we also must act. We must ask another question: what can we do to make this world a better place?