Neighbours by Chance, Friends by Choice

Some of my friends have asked me why I have stopped blogging. The truth is I have been busy writing my book Through the Valley: The Grace of Ageing and Dying Well. Now that I have completed it, I will try to blog more regularly. Please accept my apologies.

I am a champion of good neighbourliness and have been promoting the idea that we can be friends by choice even though we are neighbours by chance. Over the years, I have reached out to my neighbours by organizing Let’s Makan and initiating greetings and other social contacts to develop friendship. And what have I to show for my effort, you may ask.

Truth is, there is latent kindness in all of us – waiting to be unlocked by simple initiatives of reaching out with a smile, a word of greeting, a simple conversation and an opportunity to have a drink or a meal together.

Here’s how my neighbours have responded to us:
One evening, I came home after work only to find that my wife was not in and I did not have the house key with me. My orig…

Goodbye, 2017. Hello, 2018.

Last year was especially significant for me. I became a septuagenarian! In my honour, a couple of good friends, Soo Inn and Bernice, reprinted 47 of my published articles in a book aptly titled Born in ’47.

The WAN tribe of 10 descended from the USA and Canada to celebrate. For the first time in years, we had our family vacation in Kyoto. And for the first time in years, Ruth and I took a cruise around the Mediterranean and the Baltic, spent some time in Northern England and Scotland and Spain. Over the years I have been to many of these places because of work, but I have not been good at taking vacations. However, this time around, I felt it was time to vacate my usual work routine and do something different. It was a “working vacation” – interviewing folks on the cruise about living well and leaving well – a book project I am working on.

Last year has also been literarily productive. With the help of my research and editorial assistants, I managed to launch two books – My B…

Tattoo Power for Kindness!

A few days ago, a Friend of 50 years shared with me a story over dinner.  Her lady friend was comfortably seated on an MRT train when a pregnant lady boarded the train.  She stood up to give her seat to her but before she could take it, a young man rushed across her and took the seat.

The young man settled down and started to wear his earphones and began watching a show on his iPad, completely ignoring the pregnant lady in front of him. It was obvious to him, and everyone else around that just-vacated seat that it was meant for the pregnant lady as the one who gave it up was still on the train, now standing next to the pregnant lady.

Unfortunately, no one spoke up for either the lady who gave up the seat or the pregnant woman who was meant to be the beneficiary of that kind act.  It was a classic case of the bystander effect. The kind lady who gave up the seat then spoke up.  "Hello," she said ever so gently, "I gave up the seat for this lady, not for you," pointin…

Kindness in Strangers Makes for Pleasant Travels

I have been travelling for 5 weeks on a cruise, visiting 21 countries and 30 cities. Some of you have been following me on my Facebook where I posted my travelogue.

In the course of my travels, I interviewed 20 people for my book From Living Well to Leaving Well. One of my interviewees is a retired lawyer who was diagnosed to be afflicted with Aortic Dissection, an inoperable condition. He was told that he had from 3 months to 20 years to live. I met him, his wife and his best friend and his wife on the ship. His friends who were not fond of cruising decided to accompany him on this cruise.

My wife and I were privileged to be invited into their circle of foursome, and we shared some meals and onshore exploration together. I noticed how thoughtful, considerate and caring his friends were to him. It was a wonderful expression of kindness in friendship. I am reminded of what Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, and writer wrote in the first century BC, “Friendship i…

From Living Well to Leaving Well

I am thankful for the gift of relaxation (vacationing) as we completed our drive through the beautiful Lake District to Edinburgh, cruised the Baltic and now completing the Mediterranean route as I write.

I believe in working hard (vocationing) and enjoying the fruits of it, completing 4 books in 12 months and taking SKM through another year.

I believe in living well. We all do, though we may define it differently. For me, it is about doing meaningful work, touching lives, inspiring faith, and embracing love.

In living well, however you define it, we do need to think about it and prepare for it. Most vacationers on the cruise are retirees who have some means. One couple has cruised a total of more than a thousand days. That's a lot of cruising and you need a lot of disposable income to be able to do that!

No doubt many worked hard at making and saving money, and are now enjoying the fruits of their labour.

That takes some planning and preparation. For some, it is a lifetime…

Losing Home, Losing Dignity

I introduced Lars Peter in my Facebook post from Copenhagen a few days ago. He is a 56-year-old gentleman from Greenland whom we met at his "home" which is the doorstep of a church in the heart of Copenhagen, a stone's throw away from the palace.

He was sitting on the steps of the church doorway with his broken tricycle parked at the side. Seeing us approaching, he gestured and said, "The church is closed. It is only opened on Sunday morning for service. It's my home the rest of the time."

His English was perfect. I introduced myself and Ruth. He said, "How do you do? My name is Lars and I am a veteran from Greenland."

I sat down beside him. There is a wisp of alcohol as he spoke. He offered me a cigarette to which I politely declined.

He told me his story.

An Eskimo from Greenland, he became a soldier in Denmark. Then he became a mercenary and was stationed in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, UK and Germany.

"I fought fierce battles in Africa …

They Made Adam Proud

My wife Ruth and I are traveling till Oct 1. And my travelogue is posted on my FaceBook.

Driving out of Manchester on a Monday afternoon, we encountered heavy traffic along the way. A huge queue had already formed on the motorway.

But there were no chaos, no honking and no irate drivers. Everything was orderly.

There is an unwritten rule governing the "Give and Take" of driving etiquette. To take, one must first give. The one entering gives way to the one on the motorway in the queue. The one behind him in the motorway then gives way to the one trying to enter as he had earlier given way. He now takes.

And so it goes, alternating between the one entering and the one already on the motorway.

It works perfectly.

The traffic was orderly and everyone took turns to join the queue. The traffic moved along smoothly.

We arrived late in Windermere without making reservations for accommodation. We were hungering for adventure and were counting on finding B&B joints along the…