This is the Christmas tree a dear friend of more than three decades, Teo Sia Cheng, made this year. I am not sure why Teo decided to make his own tree but I am glad he did. It lights up a year that has been too dark for too many.
Teo lives in Malaysia. He is a graphic designer and artist with a very fine design sense.
He does not call himself a Christian. But if to be Christian is to have empathy and demonstrate compassion, Teo could light the way for many of us who find it easier to attend church than to practice loving our neighbors as generously as we love ourselves.
I remember with what devotion Teo cared for his mother through a long, debilitating illness, until she passed away. All the intimacies of personal care, all the trials of hospital visits, all the sleepless nights fell to him, though I know he is not an only child. I don’t think I heard him complain once. Like Mary,who “pondered many things in her heart” but surrendered to the urgency of a divine summons, Teo manages always to convey a feeling of inner tranquillity and a readiness to respond to the needs of the Other. Whether it was to bring to my home fresh proofs of a publication in progress late at night so that I could review them hurriedly before catching a flight, or whether he had to wake at night in his home to tend to his ailing mother, he approached the professional and the personal with the same willing generosity.
I treasure Teo’s quiet, soft kindness. I value his view of his business as a creative service to be priced fairly, never taking advantage of his clients in any way. To him, “business ethics” is not an oxymoron. Some readers may know of Chaminade’s Hogan Program. The motto of the Program is “doing business things that make social sense and doing social things that make business sense.” How fitting that this Malaysian designer is the creator of the Program’s logo
In the spirit of the season, when our thoughts turn to years past, my friend thought to send me the newspaper account ( below) by another Teo–Teo Han Wue–who recalls a green Christmas in the remote rural village of his childhood in Malaysia, “where the trees glistened not with snow, but after the heavy December downpour.”
As one year closes, and another opens, may we each look for, and find points of light that lead to the Star. We may not all be artists like Teo, but we can each help create points of light in the lives of others. Like the villagers described by the writer, singing Christmas carols in Hokkien, may we all re-imagine ourselves as “village angels” bringing good tidings where good tidings are most needed. It is one way to live one’s faith or “eat religion,” as the Chinese say.
And so, with gratitude for the year’s many blessings; with hope for better times for the many who are hurting: Welcome 2018!