The storm that occurred in Penang in early November had flooded as much as 80% of the state, and had claimed nine lives. No one had expected a tropical cyclone to hit Penang.
State officials and staffs worked through the night to rescue victims, ensured drainage system working properly, and arranged logistics and aid for those affected.
Emergency shelters were immediately set up, charity organisations mobilised their volunteers and resources to distribute food and water to those trapped by the flood.
I was recovering from high fever, flu, sore throat, and cough at that time. Went to the doctor thrice. When I felt well enough to work, on 6th of November, I went to the shelter at District Office Seberang Perai Tengah to help.
HUMANITY AND SOLIDARITY
About 500 people from Padang Lalang constituency had been evacuated to the shelter. There was also constant influx of people to the District Office to get verification form as proof to show to their employer that they cannot turn up at work due to the flood.
Dozens of volunteers busied unloading, loading, and packing food and water. Dozen others came with their trucks to fetch thousands of packed necessity for flood victims. The volunteers were there day and night to make sure aid reached the victims.
We constantly get phone calls from friends and strangers who wanted to contribute. We received thousands of bottled water, bread, cake, fruits, and biscuit. There were also those who sent in pillows, blankets, mattresses, water jets, and cleaning chemical and tools.
Malaysians from various religious and non-religious background came together to help in the crisis. Although we were tired, yet we were very touched by this gesture that demonstrated our common humanity regardless of religious, racial, and political differences.
I was particularly encouraged when we visited a flooded kampung to hand out gift packs, one of the flood victims did not want to receive it because he wanted us to pass to others who needed it more.
There were those who would still thought of others even when they themselves were victims.
DEPRAVITY AND LIMITATION
At times, the situation was chaotic. Members of the public thought that they can collect the donated items at the shelter. False WhatsApp messages were circulated.
One of those messages was racially provocative, urging Malays to rush to the shelter to get hold of the items before they were all distributed to the Chinese.
It was disheartening when I saw the message. It shows how easy racial animosity surfaces during crisis. This social ill persisted, all due to decades of racialised policy implemented by the UMNO-BN administration.
We saw the ugly side of humanity, the fruit of sinful racist politics.
My Malay colleague who received that text was furious and rightly replied in the group chat that the items were delivered to flood victims regardless of race.
Contrary to the viral WhatsApp message, the shelter was only the storage place that sent out items into flooded areas. The shelter was not a distribution center for the public to get freebies. I had to make several announcement to disperse the crowd.
There were also occasions when several members of the public who came to the shelter to insult and shouted at the volunteers.
Some of them scolded us for not sending food to them. Others demanded cooked rice and warm meal instead of dry food. There were also those who asked us for detergent and toiletries with colour and smell that they prefer.
Not to mention, there were those who hoarded more than they needed, and those who pretended to be flood victim in order to get the donated items.
Some of the volunteers confided in me about their frustration over the unruly behaviour by some of the flood victims.
No matter how hard we worked, we simply cannot fulfill everyone's expectation of the kind of aid they felt entitled to.
Moreover, that was a time of crisis. Resources and manpower were limited, while needs were overwhelming. Our immediate task was to provide basic necessity for survival.
GRACE AND ASPIRATION
Over that tragic week, we have seen the best and worst of people.
It got me wonder, what is the point of providing aid in a fallen world where genuine help can be promptly abused and taken for granted? Wouldn't such abuse be eliminated if there is no aid to begin with? And if we cannot fulfill everyone's expectation, then shouldn't we just let them be?
As I was reflecting, I remembered the notion of “common grace” in a branch of Christian thoughts called Reformed theology. It is the idea that God continues to care and provide for the creation even though it has gone wayward.
“[C]ommon grace is God’s way of restraining evil, of keeping the impact of sin at bay, of preventing the self-destruction of God’s beloved creation.” 
One of the key verse for this idea is Matthew 5:45b: “[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Reformed theologian R. Michael Allen describes common grace in this way: “God really does restrain human evil, gracing us with a more tolerable planet and human society. We call this “common grace” because it is shared with all inhabitants of this earth (“common”) and is yet an undeserved gift (“grace”).” 
Yes, there are those who would abuse any given aid. Yet, there are genuine needs too. Aid should therefore be extended even with real possibility of abuse, so that genuine ones will receive help.
Our aspiration should not stop at reducing and preventing abuse, which if not careful paralyses us with cynicism, depriving us the ability to care for the unfortunate others.
Moreover, the overflowing goodness shown by those who cared and contributed was a sign of common grace showered on us all.
Several times when we were anxious that our food and water will run out, we saw batches of lorry ferrying new supplies for us to be delivered into the flooded areas.
Instead of being paralysed by cynicism, we should be led by love and kindness.
OUR SOCIAL RESILIENCE
The flood relief work was a shared task among individuals and groups from various persuasions.
Devotees of Buddhism and Chinese folk beliefs did it out of compassion and good karma. Muslims and Christians out of God's call to bless and care for others. Free-thinkers out of humanitarian cause.
Each group contributed out of their own reason, tradition, and values.
John Rawls' “overlapping consensus”, the agreement from various groups over a common issue, saw its practical outcome in our multicultural volunteerism, guided by love and kindness.
This bond that traverses across religions and irreligiousity is the cornerstone of a resilient society. And it should remain so for Malaysia.
 Ernst Conradie, "Creation and Salvation: Revisiting Kuyper's Notion of Common Grace," in Creation and Salvation: Dialogue on Abraham Kuyper's Legacy for Contemporary Ecotheology, ed. Ernst M. Conradie (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 104.
 R. Michael Allen, Reformed Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2010), 96.