IN-Sufficiency of 400

“400 a month? How could it be sufficient?!”

I still remember the exact line my mum and her aristocratic elder sister ignorantly exclaimed when my family and I visited them at the latter’s less likely luxurious, three-floored, cornered terrace. Being me, despite realising my need to restraint from explaining things unnecessarily to irrelevant people, I argued that the sum gave us decent meals for a whole month to four and a third of our little family — my husband and I, my mum-in-law, her younger sister who’s taking care of my toddler son, and the infant himself.

In my mind I strongly protested their prejudiced judgement, “Who are they to say it’s not enough? They’re not even the ones who’re walking in our shoes! Who are they to say it’s not enough?”

Honestly I took offense for such an inconsiderate remark, “Who are they to say such things? They don’t know how much or little our monthly income is. How could they not consider that perhaps that’s all we could afford then? How could they be so unthoughtful and ask us to allocate more? They don’t even know our reality!”

Some people, especially those who are used to being more than sufficient, in terms of wealth, (or should I say “loaded”?) just don’t get the idea of tuning down their standard according to their opponents’ economic classes. If I’m a rich person, for example, who is more than capable of giving relatively good cars to all my children, would it be nice for me to bluntly ask a street tailor to give his son a bike without even knowing how much he might have earned each day?

Yet, I did give the heedless idea a benefit of the doubt. I asked our “mums at home”, my mum-in-law and her sister, if in fact it’s not enough. You know what they said?

“Ow, enough! More than enough! Don’t worry!”

How puzzling? While the first “mums” in the story would consider the amount insignificant to feed our whole family, the answer we got from the later group was unsurprisingly relieving, commendable even.

“They must have chipped in without telling you,” my mum and her sister expressed to win their argument and make us feel guilty of letting the noble ladies contribute from their own money. I don’t understand how they could make up pointless premises just to support theirs.

The fact is, my mum-in-law and her sister didn’t mind. Besides, my husband and I did give them a hundred each for their own use. It’s really up to them how to spend it. It’s not all to add to our monthly meals anyway. They could even buy some treats for their grandchildren and save the rest for their own pleasure. More importantly, none of them found it a big deal to chip in. To tell you the truth, they were even proud to help.

I truly admire the sincerity and humbleness of these ladies — my mum-in-law and her sister. Just to give you a short background, my husband was from a low-income family who’s pretty much used to the simple life. Getting buckets and buckets of water from a faraway well, trapped in compact metro mini (public bus) day in day out, sharing a small four-seater jeep with 13 people, having income much less than the national labour standard; you name it! Yet, despite their seemingly low life, their family is relatively close. The one thing I’ve learned and always held onto ever since I knew my husband is this motto, “makan nggak makan yang penting kumpul”, which literally means, “even if the family has nothing to eat, togetherness is most important.” Can you imagine how much love is contained in such principle?

My mum-in-law (may peace be upon her), who’d been a single mother of three ever since my husband was still in her womb and her eldest was not 4, learned this priceless lesson from her Netherlands, Chinese boss, who was not even a Muslim. He advised her to take all her kids, whom then were taken care separately by her three different sisters, and to live with them in the same house, as a family. My mum-in-law who was struck in awe with such divine advice gathered the courage to begin fetching her kids from their fosters. Despite the ups and downs in life, the family managed to stay close, covering up for each other in daily duties and chores while mummy tried to earn some halaal income out there. Regardless of their poverty, my mum-in-law insisted not to owe anyone for anything less than critical. She educated her children not to even borrow the belongings of others unless it’s a matter of life or death. That’s how tough she was!

Now let’s compare the sufficient 400 scenario to this one: a woman who’s been given 300 for her personal use each month and 1,000 for family’s monthly meals of even less members. Shouldn’t she feel more sufficient?

Unfortunately though, her ungratefulness to the situation and her failure to look at those who were less fortunate had made her feel insufficient instead. This negative feeling — despite existed only in her contaminated mind, and heart — had finally come to an outburst when she rudely returned the whole 1,000 claiming she couldn’t manage with such “little” amount. As breadwinners of the family, my husband and I of course felt extremely sad. How could such amount still be insufficient? Haven’t we been capable to give more? It wasn’t 400 we gave, it’s twice and more. It wasn’t 100 we gave, it’s three times larger. How could it still be not enough? Nevertheless, we kept quite for fear of offending the lady, who’s been kind enough to help us with our young son.

The danger of feeling insufficient, however, is what I’d like to also highlight in this long story of my personal experience. As a result to her initial lacking, or feeling of lacking, of money, she began to see everything around her lacking — of cleanliness, of discipline, of care, of diligence, of order, and so on. Things became so incorrect in her eyes. Her disappointment that we couldn’t fulfill her standard of almost everything led to lots and lots of negativity, kept in private and eventually made public by spreading slanders about us to our relatives and, even worse, our neighbours.

Trying to be amiable as possible despite such treatment, we said nothing till God, graciously, changed the course of life to a different way. She left at her own will and we were determined to be as independent as possible in taking care of our family.

Alhamdulillah, it has been easier to maintain the good energy within our family without the pressure and demand of such an evil, insufficient feeling. Let’s make do with whatever we have in hand and be happy with it!

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