I am an American who spent the last 20 years living and working in many countries in Asia. I have enjoyed my time living in Asia and met and married my wife, Dominica, while I was working in Seoul, Korea. We have lived in Singapore for the last 2 years and it feels like home. Recently, I met Dr. Wan at a Big Makan event and he asked me to share my perspective on kindness. And I am very glad to do that.
There are some cultural differences, but overall I believe the expression of kindness to be universal. Everyone everywhere appreciates kindness and this is especially true when they are in need.
|My wife and I|
|Big Makan 2013 at Opera Estate|
|United States Suburbia|
The stress of a larger city may also contribute to the perceived lack of friendliness. My hometown in the United States has a rush hour that lasts about 45 minutes. In every city that I have lived in Asia rush hour can last more than 3 hours and if it rains then you have to add on at least another hour. After dealing with a stressful commute, it usually takes me a bit of time to decompress. I usually even ask my wife to give me some space when I first come home as a chance to de-stress from the day’s work and commute.
Since we have moved to Singapore, we have reached out to our neighbours and I must say that they have been great. We have shared meals together, invited each other to celebrations, and picked up gifts for each other on our travels. I have also struck up conversations in the elevators with some of the other neighbours. I find that most have been receptive and kind during our short journey. This makes me feel that most would be more receptive to becoming more neighbourly and be part of a larger community.
Overall, I am optimistic that even in large cities where populations are physically close that we can be kind and neighbourly to one another and develop a close knit community. However, I think we still need a catalyst to make things happen. I have decided to associate myself with the SKM as I believe that it acts as a catalyst. We may need to start small like greeting each other in elevators or as we stand in line (an all too common occurrence in Singapore). The opportunities for kindness are always there. It is up to us to take ownership of our social environment and just step up to make the effort.
I think that is what their tagline means when it says “A Nation of Kindness Starts with One”. I know it starts with me taking the initiative.