The Twenty-Ninth of May

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In my thoughtless candidness I announced to a fair number of close buddies that my birthday was coming, and received perhaps more than I bargained for. Many people were in the mood for celebration and three groups of colleagues burst into song in the middle of the office and left me very abashed.

Not many people knew about it, but those who did were very thoughtful. It was a day when I realised how blessed I am by a loving Heavenly Father. It felt as if He was reminding me how He loved us through all the sweet gestures by my colleagues and some students. I truly felt that the most precious gifts and birthday wishes were not the slices of cake or gifts received, but the simplest and most thoughtful gestures from the relationships I most cherish. Let me recount a few of these.

There was a sweet girl I have been trying to build rapport with for the longest time. She shares with me whatever is within her zone of comfort until I probe further. After asking me for my birthday for the longest time, she texted me to say that she had left me something in my pigeon hole (cupboard). It was a sweet little plushie key chain with a handwritten note, in her usual scrawl: “Thank you for being a great teacher/friend.” That little gesture and note just warmed my heart. No theatrics or surprises, just a simple gift from the heart.

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The Secondary 4 students were also celebrating the end of their Elective modules with a miniature fair. At each booth teachers could order a clay art figurine, a balloon art, go for a manicure or simply watch a hip hop dance performance. I took the time to mingle – I would not admit it in front of them but this batch of students I feel something different for, probably because they are the first cohort of students I taught. The ones I made all the silly mistakes with, and the ones we grew up together with. A boy offered to make me a balloon and I asked for something “special” – other than the usual flowers and penguins going around the table. I searched for a Frog and he twisted one (two, the first actually exploded when I tried to dab its eyes on it). The sweetest thing.

After learning it was my birthday, another boy asked me for my favourite animal. Without much thought I said, “kangaroo”. He began searching for a tutorial online and twisting the balloons into shape – and failed. When called to go back to class, he burst the one he was struggling to make, and promised to give me one before the end of the day. A half hour later he texted me to say my kangaroo was done and he was waiting outside with a pink kangaroo and the words, “Happy Birthday, Miss Ho” written on it. So so sweet.

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The next day I received a surprise treat from a colleague who dropped by with a cup of Starbucks Caramel Nut Crunch. (And just at the time when I was craving for some coffee too!) I felt truly moved – to be remembered not just on the actual birthday itself but the day(s) after as well.

And today, the most careless brazen fellow in class actually came for his Parent-Teacher Conference with a box of KFC egg tarts. His mum said he remembered it was my birthday a few days ago and thought it would be nice to get it for me. Sometimes the most unexpected people can do the sweetest things.

I also realised that I am probably in a very blessed environment. A place where there are people who appreciate you and care about working with you.

Makes me think twice about alternatives.

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