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We Are Each Other's Teachers

There’s this ‘mamak’ restaurant I would frequent to by myself at about the same time every other day, sitting at the same favourite quiet corner, ordering the same items from the menu I know by heart, and reading a favourite book.

It's the one hour that I revel in the alone time I frequently fight for and am constantly grateful for. It's the one hour that I get to blissfully stay lost deep in the pages of my favourite book. A few days ago, when I was done with that favourite hour and digging through the compartments of my bag at the cashier counter, the ‘mamak’ waitstaff randomly asked me, “Kak, you teacher kah? (Sister, are you a teacher?)” The question took me by surprise. He was, indeed, partially right. While I don’t actually teach full-time at a school, I occasionally do things where I get to refer myself as Teacher Yaya. I asked him how he knew of this. With a smile, he went on about how he could tell some things about his regular customers from our gestures or the way we talk throughout our time there. Later in the day, at my own dining room, I reflected upon that casual conversation. It somehow dawned on me that while he was pretty accurate about me being a teacher, what I didn’t realize was that he, too, was a teacher. He didn’t just blindly send our teh ais (iced tea) to our tables day by day, ad nauseam. He also learned about his customers. He observed and understood us in his own way. Perhaps that was his way of finding meaning in between his tasks. Perhaps that was his way of making the most out of his daily routine. And perhaps that was an eye-opener and also a lesson for me to remember my purpose in between my motherhood duties each day. Perhaps it’s a reminder for me to make the most out of every simple thing I do every single day. In that short, simple and pretty random exchange, he was a ‘teacher’ to me. And he wasn’t the only one. The thing is, every other person or experience we bump into throughout our lives are in fact teachers adding on life lessons into our journey. Our kids at their crankiest states are our teachers. Our sicknesses are our teachers. Things-not-going-our-way are our teachers. Things-GOING-our-way are our teachers. We are constantly gifted with lessons of patience, strength, gratitude and what-have-you through the people and experiences that enter our lives. Such is the mercy and generosity of Allah. Here’s to being the best versions of ourselves. Because we’ll never know whose lives we’ll make a difference in and to whom we may be a ‘teacher’ to.

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