“Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
My mom, a tiramisu enthusiast in her own right, brought home a tiramisu cake from a newly-found bakery in town yesterday. As I was taking a bite out of my mini slice, she said to me, “It’s good, right?”
In my mouth, I tasted the soft layers of kahlua-soaked lady fingers that harmonioulsy marry with sweet creamy smooth mascarpone cheese and bitter dark cocoa powder that finely spreads on my tongue.
There was nothing particularly special about the tiramisu. For a classic hand-tossed slice of the Italian dessert, it was, well, good like how tiramisu is supposed to be good.
But what was brought to my attention is this, why should this particular tiramisu surprise her as good in the first place? It tastes just like how a tiramisu is supposed to taste like. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?
Back in August while I was going through a career switch exploration, I met with Mas Alex, the founder of a local human resources consultancy that a friend of mine had set me up with.
After spending a few days with him chatting through my selection process, I told him how incredibly taken I have been by the level of genuine commitment and sincere human touch they apply into their services.
Until then – I told him – so many times had I come across organizations that boast about their commitment to a meaningful client partnership, learning process, and goal-oriented development, yet have very little understanding of what each term truly means and commit to nothing more than getting their share of the work done and achieving ‘company target’.
Until then, so little had I seen a company with such a strong organizational identity and so much integrity in their adherence to the very values that they have set up to be the foundation of their work.
Daily Meaning, this small company that Mas Alex has created and has now captured every corner of my professional heart, was nothing of the former and all of the latter.
Yet when I shared my fascination with Mas Alex, he neither denied nor affirmed the special nature of his company’s character. Instead he said,
“Now let me ask you. What really surprises you so much about what we do here?
What you said about what we do here as a firm; making our clients close and informed partners in our work relationship, doing our homework in providing solutions that bring meaning and added value to the learning process, working with honest passion and adherence to our own company vision and mission, isn’t that what any organization is by right supposed to do anyway?
So why should it surprise you?”
I’ve been thinking about what he said since.
I thought about it over the slice of good tiramisu that my mother bought yesterday.
I think about it now whenever I find myself at first taken by what seem to be extraordinary actions of human beings only to soon realize that for so long and in so many ways, our lives have so many times been shortchanged. That something as natural and ordinary as doing something the way it’s supposed to be done becomes voluntary and glorified.
The kahlua-soaked lady fingers in my mom’s bought tiramisus are being shortchanged with instant coffee-soaked sponge cakes.
Genuinely tailored business services are being short-changed with impersonal instant formulaic approaches.
Children’s conversational quality time with parents is being short-changed with smartphones and tablets-accompanied silence.
Direct community involvement is being short-changed with sharing videos and liking statuses on Facebook.
Authentic food, service with a human touch, a fully-present pair of listening ears, and tangible acts of good will become extraordinary rarities and luxuries.
We come to forget that the actions we often perceive are extraordinary are often truly nothing more than what we’re just supposed to do as nothing more than people.
If I think about it now, when we watch in inspiration as a group of young designers take the initiative of constructing chairs to be placed at a busy bus stop in Kuala Lumpur, aren’t making use of our talents and helping our fellow citizens without being asked to just what we’re supposed to do as people?
When we read in admiration about Hollywood celebrities who take in adopted children into their homes and raise them as their own, isn’t channeling our abilities to provide a safe shelter, loving family and good life to those who need and equally deserve them just what we’re supposed to do as people?
When we follow in awe as leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi and Mother Teresa sacrifice so much comfort in their lives just so that the people around them could feel at least half of what they could have, aren’t sharing our blessings and preserving harmony in our society just what we’re supposed to do as people?
And if my mother thinks about it now, whenever she buys a tiramisu, shouldn’t it have been made by right to taste like one?
By right? With no short changes. With no surprises.