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

“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 have teenage children of their own. But when they are introduced to my peers, my friends are still “uncles” and “aunties” to them. Maybe it is old-fashioned. If to be respectful is old- fashioned, I am happy to be old-fashioned.

My mother also taught me to be grateful for all good things, and even for the not-so-good, for we can always learn something from that too, she would say. “Take nothing for granted,” she often reminded me. Even on my facebook, I make it a point to say “Thanks” when my request to befriend me is accepted. “Thanks for what?” I was asked now and then. “For just being my friend!” I would say. I know that facebook friends are often only virtual friends. But truth be told, some have become real friends too. In any case, nobody needs to be my friend and I want to be grateful for the gift of friendship, virtual or otherwise, because my mother has successfully inculcated in me the attitude of gratitude, and I am all the better for it, I feel.

Gratitude helps me to lower my expectations because it helps me to avoid an entitlement mindset. Because I do not feel entitled, I am more likely to feel grateful. If I do not expect too much, what I do receive is the unexpected. Because it is not expected, it is a bonus; and because it is a bonus, I naturally feel grateful.

And yes, my mother taught me by example what it means to be considerate. About 25 years ago I was working in the United States. My mom was taken ill and I was told that she was in a rather critical stage of her illness. I flew back immediately and to my great joy, she pulled through. A couple of years later, she fell ill again, but this time I did not hear from my sister at all. It was only after she passed on that I was told, and I took the first plane out from Washington DC.

I was naturally furious, wondering why I was kept in the dark. Soon enough, I found out the reason behind it. Apparently my mother had told them not to let me know because I would be worried for her. Furthermore, she had said that I am a busy person and that I should be told only after she passed on. She even left instructions for me to conduct her funeral service. That was my mother – ever thoughtful, ever considerate even during the last days of her life on earth.

As I approach Mother’s Day, I cherish fond memories of my mother who taught me everything I need to know about respect, gratitude, consideration and much more. My hope is that all mothers will be cherished, loved, respected and be thanked every day, and not just on Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Thank you Mom

Comments

  1. indeed looking alike! =)

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  2. Thanks for sharing this heart warming story :)

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  3. Wow, Dr Wan... I am especially attracted to these sentences in one of your paragraphs, "Gratitude helps me to lower my expectations because it helps me to avoid an entitlement mindset. Because I do not feel entitled, I am more likely to feel grateful. If I do not expect too much, what I do receive is the unexpected. Because it is not expected, it is a bonus; and because it is a bonus, I naturally feel grateful." I think it is so true, and this is the problem plaguing many youths and adults in Singapore today - the 'entitlement' mindset, a very potent and dangerous thing to have in society, often detrimental in nature.

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