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January 2023
Issue No. 312

To be a good neighbour during pandemic

The HKSKH’s Missionary Area of Macau recently held a ‘Parish-School-Social Services Joint Staff Development Day’ on 19th October at the Choi Kou School. The theme of the day was ‘Interpersonal relationships during a pandemic’, and over 300 staff members attended the event. The Revd Domingos Un Wai Meng of the Catholic Diocese of Macau was invited as the guest speaker of the day.


Archbishop Andrew Chan sent words of encouragement via a recorded video. His Grace noted how the general public’s perception of movement changed when the pandemic arrived. Even as we treasure the scant opportunities when we could meet face to face, we should still thank our Lord that technological advancements have enabled us to build and maintain relationships via virtual means. The Archbishop continued that God’s love is the bond that links us all, no matter if we are in Hong Kong or Macau, and it is via such links forged in love that we can support each other in our work. All of this contribute to the spirit of teamwork that is crucial to the day’s theme.

The Revd Domingos Un commented that this was the first time he was invited to speak by a Protestant organisation ever since his ordination, and that this spirit of breaking through barriers and looking out for each other is exactly the spirit we need during times of a pandemic. The Revd continued that the theme of ‘being a good neighbour’ cannot be carried out unless we learn to open up and break down the barriers within our own hearts. 

Thinking back on the pandemic

Three years of pandemic have brought us ample changes, disturbances, and revelations. All of these are opportunities for us to reflect upon. As we lead our masked lives, the scanning of contact tracing codes and getting vaccinated seem to have become the prerequisites for the freedom of movement. During a lulling period of the pandemic, the Revd Domingos recalled how there was a congregant’s husband who was on his deathbed at the hospital. The Revd wasn’t technically allowed into the ward due to COVID restrictions, but at the end he was permitted in to conduct the last rites – a display of love despite the circumstances. When our movement is restricted, it is a time for us to reflect on the meaning of life, and how we value and prioritise the things we encounter in life. It is a chance for us to clarify to ourselves what path are we to take, and what goals are we to aim for. The Revd reminded the attendees, ‘We should treat things as they come, without overwhelming joy or sadness on our parts. We should learn to let go, and lead a simple life. At the same time, we should be aware for the desires of our senses. In other words, we should know ourselves, understand ourselves, and treat ourselves well.’ 

The guest and host of interpersonal relationships

The Revd Domingos pointed out that Jesus has taught us not to discriminate amongst ourselves in the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke. When we notice that others are in need, we should let go of our pride and fulfil others’ needs. We serve others not because we want their reward, but because of our love and our pursuit of goodness. Under this pandemic, to walk the path of love is a most important mission for us. 

He continued by noting that there are four important aspects or stages when it comes to interpersonal relationships: to acquaint, to communicate, to lend a hand, and to walk in the same shoes. We all start as acquaintances, as we communicate with others by our eyes and emotions, letting others know of our support for them. The next stage is to communicate, where we interact further with others. Then comes the trust and the selflessness of lending a helping hand, where you elect to help others by giving up part of your own time or resources. The last stage is to be able to walk in the same shoes as others, as we share in both joy and grief in life together as soulmates.

Often times, we rely on our ears only when we interact with others, worse still, we rely on gossip and hearsay, and we label others by the rumours we hear. This prevents us from reaching the further stages in trust and relationship. To treat others well is to treat ourselves well, and Jesus has also taught us in the Bible that we should do to other what we would have them do to us. In an objective world, we cannot force others to change, and so we can only change ourselves. At the end of the day, it is the attitude and spirit behind our actions that warrant our exploration and discussion.

The Revd Domingos then expanded on the topic by quoting the four core tenants of service from the Anglican tradition, that is: caring for the individual, professionalism, empathy, and creativity.

The first of these is caring for the individual, and the Revd believes that it is most important to understand the personal needs of whoever you’re looking after. We are to enter their perspective, and understand the context behind their problems, so that we can find the appropriate encouragement and support within their limitations. The second of these is professionalism, that is to say, our ability to help must be proportionate to our willingness to help. The third is empathy, the fact that when we empower others we are also empowering ourselves. The fourth is creativity, where we recognise the need to gradually change our ways as the times change, lest we limit ourselves in stagnation. 

The Revd ended his sharing by reciting the Lord’s Prayer, with an emphasis on the harmony between God and us, and amongst us ourselves. He prayed that we can face the difficulties of life with positivity and a willingness to put others before ourselves. With such a mindset, perhaps we could break through the physical separation of masks and let our love reach through to others.

Chief coordinator Ms Sum of the Sheng Kung Hui Macau Social Services replied saying that when it comes to interpersonal relationships, we often struggle with the three ‘selves’ within us. These are the original self, the one in reality, and the one in our ideals. In order to foster our relationship with others, we must first understand the differences between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’. With the pandemic around us, such differences are all the more apparent, and so requires all the more effort on our part to ease them. Love is the great ice-breaker, and we should love others as we love ourselves. When we are asked the question, ‘Who are my neighbours?’, the answer lies not in the definition of the who, but whether we ourselves are willing to be the neighbours of others.


<The above article was published in "Echo" Issue No. 312. Please click here>


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