Showing posts from 2012

Merry Christmas!

Two simple words but for many Christians around the world, they speak volumes. For them it is a very significant time in their religious calendar as they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ whom they worship as the Son of God, the Messiah and the Saviour of the World.

Two minutes ago, I received this email from a Hindu friend:

“Regardless of one's religion, Christmas is a time for counting our blessings and offering thanks! I am blessed to have known you. I wish you and your family Merry Christmas, Happy 2013 and HAPPINESS always!”

I am glad that in our multi-racial and multi-religious nation, we are able to join our Christian friends in their celebration regardless of our own faith traditions. As Singaporeans we celebrate each other’s special holy days including Deepavali (Hindu), Vesak Day (Buddhist), and Hari Raya Puasa (Muslims). These holy days are gazetted public holidays for all Singaporeans.

About this time last year, I read a piece by the Sultanah of Johor, Raja Zarith…

Out of the Mouths of Babes...

On the basis of some recent studies, Yale psychologist Paul Bloom concludes that humans are born with a hard-wired morality. He thinks that a deep sense of good and evil is bred in the bones. Experiments with babies and toddlers found that they are able to judge goodness and badness in the behaviour of others. Researchers also found them desiring to reward the good and punish the bad. They even act to help those in distress and they feel guilt, pride and righteous anger.

These tentative findings are encouraging for those of us who believe that given the right role models and education, children will become kind and gracious adults. They show that babies and toddlers are sensitive to third party interactions of a positive and negative nature, and according to Bloom, this influences how they behave toward others and later on, how they talk about them. They are useful moral foundations, to say the least.

For a year now we have published a newsletter for the primary school children …

A Cleaned City Is Not a Gracious City

My friend Liak Teng Lit is right to say that we are a cleaned city and not a clean city. In fact we are not even a thoroughly cleaned city. A few weeks ago, I joined a number of community leaders and concerned citizens on a Saturday morning to do some litter-picking. There were 82 of us. Armed with a garbage bag and a picker each, we fanned out into the vicinity of several blocks of HDB flats. Within less than 2 hours, we returned with bags full of garbage.

We found them under bushes, beside parked cars, at the children’s playground, on and around benches. There were rusted cigarette lighters, small bottles filled with stagnant water, broken glasses, styrofoam and plastic cups, drinking straws, paper bags, plastic bags, tissue paper, etc etc.

What is most troubling is that in some cases, the garbage bin is only a few steps away.

Last night my wife and I ate at a hawker center. There is in fact a tray return point though it is not too conspicuous. We sat near the tray return poi…

Kindness in the London Tube

I am writing this from London where I am chairing the 7th General Assembly of the World Kindness Movement. 12 members from 9 countries are represented here. Some folks at home think that only Singapore has a kindness movement. Let me assure you that the 12 movements represented at this Assembly is only a fraction of the numerous kindness movements in the world. At this Assembly, we hope to come up with a strategy to onboard more members from around the world. When we are able to join the dots represented by the movements with the common goal of spreading kindness, we can make a difference in inspiring a more peaceful world.

My first visit to London was in 1973 and I remember how impressed I was with the London Tube when Singapore was still decades away from having our own MRT. 2 days ago, I took the Tube downtown. It was not crowded as it wasn’t during the peak hours. I noticed that there were signs identifying priority seats, almost exactly like what we have in Singapore exce…

Young people are kinder than you think!

According to the Graciousness Index released in March, Gen Y (16-29 years old) have exceeded all the other generations in their sensitivity to kindness. As if to confirm this as a fact, PM Lee identified a number of Gen Y activists who are champions of kind acts, including Mohammed Farhan, the founder of Voluntaries. We honour all of these and others too many to mention, and in particular, we are very proud of Farhan who is one of us in the SKM family. He was our intern on two occasions and was also a part-time staff member.

Recently, several groups of JC students from Pioneer, Victoria , Hwa Chong and Raffles called on me to share their ideas how we can inspire a kinder and more gracious Singapore. These Gen Y representatives are bubbling with exciting ideas to deal with the reality that many commuters are not aware of the needs around them. Gen Y are not only sensitive to the need to be kind, they are also prepared to give the benefit of doubt to those who are not giving up the…

Fireworks of a Different Kind

One of my current pet peeves is how the media today, be it traditional or social, makes it look like Singapore is full of racist, xenophobic and unkind people. Some have even wryly noted that the existence of the Singapore Kindness Movement is proof that Singaporeans need someone to teach them to be kind.

The recent example of the video of the NUS/SIM boy making its round on social media, drawing much anger from netizens, is indicative of this. Yes, the student said some unfortunate things, but many comments from keyboard warriors were equally unkind, if not worse. When the boy’s actions and the subsequent reaction are viewed in totality, it makes Singaporeans look like angry, petulant children. The story even made it to the mainstream media, which further sensationalised the issue.

Some will justify the reactions to say that we must fight fire with fire, but I’ve been brought up to think that the best way to fight fire is with water.

On a happier note, last week, my wife and I too…

Is priority/reserved seat an entitlement?

Last week, I took the MRT and it was quite packed. I am a senior citizen and I had hoped that someone would be kind enough to offer me a seat, as has happened before. But not this time.

I was standing in front of a younger lady who was seated on the priority seat and busily engaged with her smartphone. I tried to make eye contact with her but chose not to verbally request for the seat. I took the opportunity to do a personal experiment. She looked up at me momentarily, but quickly returned to her smartphone. At the City Hall MRT, we both alighted. I gave way to her as she made her exit and I followed. Quickening my steps, I caught up with her, smiled and said, “Good morning. May I ask you a couple of questions?” She returned a smile and said, “Sure.” I asked her if she would give up her seat to someone in greater need, like a senior citizen. And she replied, “Of course, I would.” I then gently announced that I was the Senior Citizen standing in front of her. In obvious shock and emb…