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Showing posts from April, 2014

All I needed to know about Kindness, I learned from my Mother

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“You look like Grandma,” exclaimed my niece. We were visiting mother’s niche at the columbarium. My sister and I and members of our family make it an annual ritual to do so around this time – between Easter and Mother’s Day.

Yes, I do look like my mother, and I hope I am as kind and gracious as she was. May I share with you some of the lessons on kindness and graciousness I learnt from her.

“Always be respectful – know your place,” I can hear her saying in Teochew. Recently, Prof Tommy Koh, who taught me Criminal Justice when I was a final year law student, introduced me at a university forum as his friend. I felt very complimented but I could never bring myself to call him by his first name. “Once a teacher, always a teacher,” my mother would say. My mother’s idea of respect is to address your senior respectfully, so “Prof Koh” he is and will always be to me.

My children are no longer children, of course. They are professionals in their chosen fields, and two of the three h…

Kindness in Literature

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Kindness is a virtue valued by almost all people across all generations and cultures. These days, when I read books of interest, be it novels or biographies, I almost always make a note of kindness that is mentioned in the works, and I find them rather instructive. Let me share some of my recent readings.

My friend’s daughter Laura Hillenbrand, an award-winning author, has written another blockbuster. Unbroken is a World War II story of survival, resilience and redemption. The mind, body and spirit of Olympian Louie Zamperini were tested to the extreme limits when he was a Japanese prisoner-of-war. In the midst of cruelties and atrocities, Louie found brief relief in one of the few happy encounters in the POW camps.

Kawamura was a new guard who slipped two pieces of hard candy into Louie’s hand. He then moved down the hall and gave two pieces to his fellow POW, Phil. “A friendship was born,” writes Hillenbrand.

“Kawamura brought a pencil and paper and began making drawings to i…