Monday, June 10, 2013

Unleash the Singa in You

After more than 30 years of service, first as the Courtesy Lion and then as the Kindness Lion, Singa has stepped aside.

As Singapore’s mascot for kindness, Singa’s letter calling on real people to step up brought an unprecedented depth of discussion on the topic of kindness. Whether on social media or through letters to the press, Singaporeans were eager to share why they felt Singa should stay or go. There were also serious questions asked of the state of graciousness in Singapore.

Press and blogs on Singa's resignation

It is evident that kindness still matters to people and that is an encouraging sign of our potential for pro-social change as a nation. The conversations that took place were important in helping us to take stock as a people, and set the tone for how we can move forward in our quest for a kinder society.

In his 30 years of faithful service, Singa served as a reminder of the positive values we should constantly strive for. But it is so easy to take what he represents for granted. Business as usual will not do. It is more important that we stop to consider how we can each play our part in filling this lion-shaped void.

Already, we see youths heeding the call for real people to step up to the plate. At the launching of Kindness Day SG on 31 May 2012, we recognized more than 20 individuals and groups for many initiatives of kindness driven by their youthful passions. One of them is the freshly minted group who called themselves The 101 Hard Things Challenge. They were inspired directly by the call of Singa for real people to step up to the plate.

The 101 Hard Things Challenge

On 26 May, some 70 participants took to the streets of Orchard Road to carry out a scavenger hunt for kind acts. To touch the hearts of others, they were tasked with acts such as holding the door for others, handing out small gifts to children and doing nice things for unsuspecting people.

Dedicating time to being thoughtful and caring for others helped the youths to pause and reflect further on the topic of kindness.

Participant Sia Lim observed that the effect of kindness did not end with the act itself. In fact, kindness and graciousness are the catalyst for further goodwill and friendliness. She said, “Even if you are only saying hello to a random person, it helps to shorten the barrier between yourself and the person that you are greeting.”

For organiser Narasimman Narash, acts of kindness are meaningful not only to the recipient. “Each time I choose to reach out in doing something kind for others, I do something for myself that others cannot. Constantly doing kind deeds nurtures in me a heart of compassion,” he shared.

Ironically, the 101 Hard Things Challenge reminds us that showing and spreading kindness really isn’t that hard. And for the recipients and witnesses of their kind acts, the message that there are still many empathetic and helpful Singaporeans around rang loud and clear.

Narasimman is not alone in thinking that kindness is a choice that we can and should make. There are many other ground-up movements championing kindness, empathy, helpfulness and other positive values in Singapore that have sprung up and gained great support from others who believe in their cause.

The Hidden Good is one such initiative. It was started by Rovik and Leon, two NS men who believe that there is a lot of good in our society that often goes unnoticed. They had a hunch that unearthing the good and sharing it with others will affirm do-gooders and inspire more kind behaviour.

Rovik and Leon taking part in CNA Talking Point with
Asst. Prof. Michelle See, Dr. William Wan and host Daniel Martin

As such, the team sets up scenarios in public spaces that present opportunities for people to lend a helping hand to a stranger in need. Their videos have generated great interest on social media and they have successfully shown that by and large, Singaporeans do have it in us to care for one another. For a public that has grown accustomed to seeing high-profile cases of bad behaviour on STOMP and other platforms, these videos serve as an inspiring reminder that pro-social behaviour is still prevalent and appreciated in Singapore.

Unleash the Singa in you!

Of course, all this is not to say that we are only ambassadors for kindness when we look to do these group initiatives. The beauty of kindness and graciousness lies in the power of simplicity. Through our own small, everyday acts of kindness, we can also bring out the Singa in each other and play our part in making Singapore a more gracious society. Peter Png is one of those individuals who takes the initiative to create a simple card reminding fellow road users to be considerate. He simply gives it away, one at a time.

Stay Cool Card