At that auction, humanity won

At a fundraising event in Jakarta, you can do good and have a fabulous time simultaneously. (Photo courtesy of Eva Muchtar)

A passing invitation came to me the other day from a friend to attend a fundraising musical drama “Music for Rema” at Salihara cultural center in South Jakarta. The event was to support patients of rheumatoid arthritis. It turned out to be a very heartwarming occasion shared with kind and light-hearted people.

Rheumatoid arthritis is “an autoimmune disease that results in a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks flexible joints. It can be a disabling and painful condition, which can lead to substantial loss of functioning and mobility if not adequately treated.”

Cases of rheumatoid arthritis in Indonesia are more common than we think. It affects people of all ages, as young as those who are in their teens and twenties.

Een Sukaesih, who was featured in the video presentation of the evening, is one of them. Een is a teacher in Sumedang, West Java, who has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for the past twenty-six years.  Yet, she amazingly persists in teaching despite of her condition.

So that night, a bunch of people from the performing art community gathered, sang, read poems and participated in a musical drama. The line-up included the talented students of Insitut Musik Daya Indonesia, actress Cornelia Agatha, fitness instructor Vicky Burki, singer Nina Tamam, singer-cum-doctor Tompi and American jazz singer Veronica Nunn.

After an artist performed a song or recited a poem, the MCs of the night auctioned the subsequent performance. All proceeds would go to the patients.

It was a wonderful and fun atmosphere. It got better as the night went on. Towards the end, during the last performance, instead of ‘auctioning’ the performance, the MCs offered, what if we were to accumulate all the bids.

So if one bidder said he or she would donate one million rupiah, and the next bidder said two million, then both sum would be accumulated and donated. So on and so forth.

What a brilliant idea. People started to chip in, with whatever amount they could offer. Even the artists participated in the bid. The excitement was coupled with performances that have gotten more and more relaxed, entertaining, and spontaneous. Jazz does that to us.

This somehow transformed the ambiance. People got excited over the possible sum we can accumulate. It was no longer about being the highest bidder. It was about what we could do together.  Everyone was cheering for that collective potential of what we might contribute to help those in need.

The line between performers and audience dissipated. There was no longer just a performer or just an audience. Everyone was a performer —we chipped in, we laughed, we shouted in excitement, we sang along, and we clapped— and everyone was an audience, as we were all witnessing this amazing occurrence that unfold before us.

At the end of the night, we managed to collect more than 114 million rupiah. A standing ovation to the night, indeed.

To me, at that night, there was no one person winning the auction. That night belonged to all who were present and the patients of rheumatoid arthritis.

At that night, collective compassion, joy and kindness thrive. It was truly music for Rema. One fine example of humanity at its best.

The article was first published on the Jakarta Globe’s blog.

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