Mr. and Mrs.Loh Mee Sing walked past a coffee shop in Sarikei and stopped to say hello to a total stranger. In Foochow this practice of asking a stranger some questions is "Chueh muong" or " borrow and ask" in English. And what a warm gesture it was. He found the sister of a long lost customer from 40 years ago! His haunch proved to be very pleasing on a wet Sunday morning in a town like Sarikei. And in bigger cities and towns not many people are friendly and outgoing like Mr. and Mrs. Loh today.
Mr. Lawrence Wong Principal (white shirt standing in the middle; Mrs. Lawrence Wong is seated first from left)of Ling Chu Ming Secondary School with his relatives and former students in Miri in 2009. Photo courtesy of James Wong (former student of Mrs. Lawrence Wong and Madam Judy Wong )
It is quite common for some Foochows to go up to a total stranger to ask if she was "so and so". It has happened to me and it has happened to a lot of my friends. And so last Sunday it happened to my friend Judy Wong the Principal of Methodist Pilley Institute.
I call it a "Beautiful Foochow Recognition Moment" . It is a indeed a human Connection Moment.
My friend Judy Wong and I were having breakfast at a coffee shop in Sarikei and an elderly couple passed by the shop. The man kept on looking at Judy and then asked her if she was "so and so...." because she looked familiar. He must have been reading lots of newspapers and he was a little certain that she was a "principal". Then they started to introduce each other like all warm hearted Foochows do. After the usual Foochow manner of greeting and introduction they started tracing their history.
Judy also said that she herself looked the most like her brother Lawrence Wong Liong Ming. And that got them talking even more. Social communication between two total strangers become warmer when both are humble and willing to reveal their relatives' names and their origins. If it is just an exchange of yes and no the conversation or communication would be killed. Genuine interest easily creates a better atmosphere for conversation and subsequent deeper understanding. There is thus the kind of social connection which makes people feel that the world is such a great place to be in. In many young people's vocabulary this
Lo and behold Mr. Loh Mee Sing remembered that he used to serve 30 cents kampua mee to her brother Lawrence Wong when he was still a Form Three student in St. Anthony School.In those days every one in Sarikei would be on the look out for each other and helping each other so to speak.
And this is the remarkable story:
Lawrence Wong was in despair because he really wanted to study and complete his Form Five. The Principal of St. Anthony School at that time was very sympathetic
(Photo: Sarikei Time Capsule)
and allowed him to leave school one lesson earlier every day so that he could teach in Sg. Bore (Boleh Gurng) as a temporary teacher to earn a meagre salary of $30 per month.(How many Heads would do this today?)
And before Lawrence went to the school he would stop by Mr. Loh's stall to eat his lunch. It was a bowl of 30 cents worth of noodles be it soup or dry. Sometimes when he had slightly more money he would eat two bowls.
It is only common knowledge for all of us that a growing boy's stomach could not be full with only one small bowl of noodles.
But Lawrence was determined enough not only to educate himself but all his siblings. In the next few years he worked hard and finally went to study in the US. He did not even attend his own graduation but return immediately to teach in Methodist Secondary School Sibu so that his father would have a lighter burden and his siblings could continue their studies who by then were in Sibu.
He took his siblings from the Methodist Children's Home (Sibu) and provided a home for all of them by renting the upper floor of a terrace house in Tiong Hua Road Sibu.
The rest is a story of success that we in Sibu all know.
And Mr and Mrs. Loh have definitely been richly blessed in different ways for their contribution to Sarikei.
P/s We would like to know the name of the Rev Father who was the kind principal of SAS of that time who helped Lawrence. That was about 1957.