Sunday, May 02, 2010

Heart to Heart with Teresa Hsu, 112

The power of laughter

kept some 200 people in stitches during her talk on ‘Love All Serve All’ at the Malaysian Buddhist Association hall in Penang last Friday.

For the bubbly Chinese-born Singaporean, who is affectionately known as Singapore’s Mother Teresa, laughter is definitely the best medicine.

Born in 1898, the 112-year-old social worker extraordinaire keeps young and active by happily doing charity work.

Kicking off the question and answer session, Hsu, who was accompanied by her friend Sharana Rao, said she was born “very, very poor” and the toughest part of her life was when she had to pick grass to eat as she was “very, very hungry”.

“It was at that moment I thought to myself that no one should ever go through what I went through,” she said.

When asked the secret to her longevity and good health, Hsu responded, “Ha, ha, ha! Make sure your heart is always happy”.

She also said eating one raw egg every day for breakfast could be another reason for her good health.

“Once someone told me that raw egg is poisonous to which I replied ‘never mind, I thrive on poison’,” she said.

Hsu, who was born in Swatow, Guangdong Province, China, attended school only at 27. She ran away to Hong Kong when she was 16 to escape an arranged marriage.

Having witnessed the suffering of the wounded during World War II, she recognised a calling to serve and at the age of 47, managed to convince the London Nursing College to accept her as a mature student.

She subsequently travelled around Europe to help the sick and needy and was even invited by German Jewish refugees to work in a hospital in Paraguay.

In 1961, Hsu arrived in Singapore to care for her ailing mother and founded the Home for the Aged Sick in Singapore. She has since made the republic her home.

In 2005, Hsu received the Special Recognition Award from the Singapore Government in recognition of her contribution to the country.

Hsu had the audience laughing with her sharp and witty answers to questions. When asked how much rice she ate every day, she replied, “I don’t eat rice, I have no teeth and therefore, I cannot chew”.

To another question on whether she had ever fallen sick, she quipped, “The sick demons forgot to visit me.”

Hsu also imparted words of wisdom to the audience by telling them that when somebody says anything unpleasant, just don’t listen.

“If someone also says they are not happy, go all out to make them happy because if you love everybody with all the love in your heart, then you’ll be happy, ha, ha, ha,” she laughed.

On death, Hsu said she normally does not console the relatives of the deceased but instead makes them laugh.

She told the audience how she got a lady whose uncle had died to laugh and sing along to a Cantonese kindergarten song.

Hsu also said whenever she was faced with a problem, she would try to solve it but if she could not, then she just accepted it.

To another question, she said she wasn’t born naturally caring but shared an incident that deeply affected and changed her. Her late mother once dug up potatoes to feed the family but gave away the entire pot to a starving beggar who arrived at their doorstep with a child.

“That was the day I learnt that to give what you have in your hand to others is a great blessing,” she said.

When asked how important religion was to her, Hsu said, “Nobody ever told me what a religion was”.

She cited an incident when a Buddhist man and a Christian lady were arguing and singing praises about their respective religions.

She told them, “Brother and sister, there’s just one door”.

From Teresa...
"My wish is to smile throughout my life,.."
" Everybody is a brother and sister .."
" My religion is LOVE .."

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