Junko, a young Japanese businesswoman, is the leader of the group. Norie, a Japanese volunteer at our Kindness Gallery, introduced us. There were 6 other Green Birds all ready to don on the green vest and gloves. Armed with a litter-picker and litterbags, we fanned out into Little India for 90 minutes. We returned with our bags full of litter.
Along the way, we were looked upon with curiosity and amazement. A few stopped to find out who we are, and I never failed to tell them that foreigners are helping us to keep Singapore clean, ending with a question, “Will you join us?” Some said, “Thanks!” and walked away. I take that to mean “Thanks, and no thanks!”
A couple of them came to show appreciation and admiration. They said they will certainly participate and make a difference. I thanked them and trust that they will do so.
We passed LAGNAA, “...the barefoot dinning.” I had a chat with Shanti who is an associate there. She expressed appreciation for our efforts and said that she is doing her part. I thanked her. As I left to continue my litter-picking, I heard someone calling after me. I turned around and there was Kaesavan, also from LAGNAA. He invited us to have a cool drink with his compliments. I thanked him and said we will take that up after our rounds.
When we returned, Shanti was there, welcoming us with a broad smile. We were sweaty and clearly in need of a long cool drink. We were about to take a seat on the ground floor when she said, “Please come upstairs. I have turned on the air-conditioning. It is more comfortable up there.” This is kindness in action, very thoughtful hospitality. We enjoyed the lassi and the coke. Feeling very refreshed and encouraged, we took our leave with much gratitude. My friend Teng Lit offered a tip for the waiter but Shanti said, “No need to, if you insist, I will give it to charity.”
What did I take away from this experience?
First, we cannot stereotype foreigners and play the blame-game. The state of cleanliness in our city is not caused by foreigners – it is the result of litter-bugs who have no sense of pride and civic responsibility – and it has little to do with being a foreigner or local.
Second, every trip we make to do our rounds of litter-picking reiterates the reality that we are not a clean city. We are not even a cleaned city. Is cleanliness an issue in Singapore?? You must be kidding!
|Is Cleanliness an Issue in Singapore?|
And finally, there are kind people everywhere. Kaesavan and Shanti are but two of them. I want them to know that their act of hospitality to total strangers like us make a great difference. They encouraged us by their thoughtfulness and generosity. Because of people like them, we press on in what we do and trust that our kindness to the environment will continue to inspire acts of kindness in others. Each act of kindness when conjoined will be like trees planted on both sides of a wide boulevard, providing shade and safety for all to enjoy.
This is the vision of a Singapore we want to see.