Friday, April 15, 2016

See you on the other side (site)

Dear friends,

Hello, it’s me. Pun on Adele’s song aside, it’s been almost four years since the launch of this blog in August 2012. Thank you for giving me the privilege and pleasure sharing with you my thoughts and ideas on kindness, and I hope I have gotten more people alerted and interested in some aspects of kindness. 

It is with a tinge of sadness that I am now announcing the closure of this blog. This is part and parcel of revamping our site. We are renaming our new editorial site, The Pride. It is a content-driven site that will bring fresh insights on current affairs and community happenings that has some relevance to our mission to foster a kinder and more gracious society. We want this new platform to be more engaging and interactive. I will contribute op-eds and social commentaries on issues relevant to kindness, as a member of the editorial team.

It is time to change from being the sole writer of my own blog on kindness, to being a staple contributor of The Pride. This mirrors Singapore Kindness Movement’s latest tagline “Kindness. It’s up to us”, where the involvement has expanded from “me” to “us”. I look forward with excitement to the potential and possibilities of our new approach.

See you on the other side (site)!

Visit The Pride, Singapore Kindness Movement's new editorial site bringing you fresh perspectives on current affairs and community happenings, at

Monday, February 22, 2016

Be Kind, Include Us

I am pleased to share with you this special personal journey from my guest Danielle Chan. She is one of the kindest and most compassionate person I have met. She is who she is because of what she has.

Be Kind, Include Us.

I have two boys; my older son is 16 and was diagnosed with Attention Deficiency, Autism and Dyslexia when he was 7 years old. Around 8 years of age, my younger son who is now 12 years old was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Because of them, I went for an informal diagnosis for myself and discovered that I also have Attention Deficiency Disorder all along. The 3 of us would often joke with their father that out of the four of us, he is the only abnormal one in the family. This reminds me of the movie “Planet of the Apes”, where apes were the norm and humans were the outcasts. The norm is defined as the majority. But that number which constitutes as the majority is not an absolute, it changes doesn’t it? It is not a constant. Recent medical research indicates that the number of autistic children have increased from 1 in 2000 in the 1970s, to 1 in 150 at present. This rate of increase has astonished the medical community. My older son said to me “Mommy, one day autistic people will be in the majority and the world will be ruled by people like us.” That is probably not that far from the truth, as Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg are said to have slight autism, and these two people have certainly changed the way we live and interact with each other.

It was not known to me that I had ADD, but once I knew, everything that I did or didn’t do made a lot of sense. I laughed when I received the news because I really did not think there is anything wrong with me. My kids carry the same perspective that when they are performing certain actions that seem strange or unacceptable to society at large, they do not think there is anything wrong until someone from the ‘outside’ tells them that it is wrong. So the three of us like being around each other because we are free from being judged, moralised, and criticised.

Isolation, escapism and distraction are common tactics we employ to avoid the feeling of hurt and annoyance. Most of us have a beautiful mind trapped in a body. We feel and we understand a lot more than what people perceive, but we may not always have the ability to express these feelings, or we express them in ways that are explosive.

We accept that there will not be a lot of people who will understand us though there is always that one or two persons who take the time to figure you out. I was lucky to have met my husband and he accepted almost all my idiosyncracies. He actually found my habits cute. Most guys that I dated before always moralised and try to change me. And when they attempted to do that, I countered them saying “How do you know you are right? Because that is what everyone thinks? Didn’t the majority thought it was right to own slaves at one point in time? Terrorists think they are right. How can you be absolutely certain that you are not a perpetrator of a bigger vice?” Well not many like my argumentative style, but my husband did. He says I make him think. I was born this way; there is not much I can do about that. I only know how to be me. How is it possible to be someone else? Even if I tried to be someone else, am I supposed to live a life of hypocrisy and falsity? We may not be the brightest, have the best social manners, or the latest outfit, but we live an authentic life. We do not pretend to be anyone else other than who we are.

Luck was also showered on my older son, who came across a Ms. Shabana Haleem at Bedok South Secondary School. Before my son met Ms. Sha (this is what my son calls her), he was a lost and frustrated yet talented boy. He loves math but he did not always have the language ability to express his needs. Sometimes he is side-lined because of his weirdness. Ms Sha was the special needs teacher who took the time to listen and understand him. She did not find him annoying and neither was she disgusted with his habits. Instead, she patiently taught and fought for him. She found some of my son’s habits ‘cute’. Throughout the last three years at Bedok South, Ms Shah was Jai’s solace and mentor. She was also my saviour. A kind act of understanding and fighting for an underdog has changed life for my son, and paved the road to what I believe will be a successful path.

How are we to practice inclusiveness? Be kind. It is a verb. When you see a special needs person or someone who you think is weird or does not fit into what you think is right, first be kind not to judge. Be kind not to moralise. Be kind to take a deeper look into that person’s eyes and believe that beneath that body is a beautiful mind. And do your best to include us. See us as your equal not as your inferior, because one day, maybe just one day, one of us odd balls may be in the majority, and it will be us who will decide who to include!

Danielle Chan

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

My Abdeali Tayebali Lifetime Achievement Award

I have always been fascinated by religions and studied it at graduate school overseas. As a Christian, I do believe that we must respect the choices people make in regard to religion. It was therefore a singular honour for me to be conferred the Abdeali Tayebali Lifetime Achievement Award by the Family Trust.

I hope my acceptance speech and what my friend Dr. Gervis wrote will encourage you to let kindness to one another be the unifying factor for all of us, whatever faith tradition we embrace, or for that matter, no faiths at all.

Acceptance Speech for the Abdeali Tayebali Lifetime Achievement Award

Minister Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youths; Mr. Ameerali Abdeali, Chairman of the Abdeali Tayebali Family Trust, Your Excellency and my dear friend, Ambassador Kesapany, members of the Board of Trustees, leaders of collaborating organizations - the Singapore Indian Association and the Jamiyah Islamic Centre - distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am deeply honoured and humbled to be given this recognition for the life I live and the work I do. When I was told that I was unanimously nominated by the board, my immediate reaction was that there are many more worthy nominees. But my plea fell on deaf ears, so here I am to accept this great honour.

It is especially significant because I am a Christian. And I am being honoured by a Muslim Family Trust. This is an important message to our fellow Singaporeans and to others around us that in Singapore we value religious harmony. We can practice our own faith passionately without disrespect to other faith traditions. We can be passionate and compassionate at the same time.

I would like to receive this recognition on behalf of all my friends of all faiths and no faiths who believe in our common humanity bonded by a duty to be kind to one another.

As for me, I will continue to live my life and do my work based on the fundamental commitment to love God with all my heart, with all my mind and with all my strength and to love my neighbours as myself.

I am even more determined to work towards fostering a kinder and more gracious society and I invite you to join me in this worthy endeavour. Therein lies the glimmer of hope for peace and goodwill in a world at risk of imminent self-destruction.

May our lives be filled with faith, hope and love, wrapped with peace and goodwill to one and all. 

Thank you very much, and God bless,

William Wan, JP., PhD.

29 Dec 2015

Monday, January 4, 2016

Aphorisms to Live By

On the eve of the New Year, I posted on my Facebook the following:

"I got up this morning reflecting to myself the following 12 lessons I have learnt and relearnt in the last 12 months:
  1. Have time for things that count which are usually beyond counting. 
  2. Always live with positive Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy. 
  3. Peace starts with me and it begins with a smile. 
  4. Prayer is not instructing God, it is simply reporting for duty. 
  5. You can decide to do the right thing each and every time.
  6. No matter how you feel, just Get up, Dress up and Show up, for the best is just ahead of you. 
  7. Earn your self-respect for no one owes it to you. 
  8. Work smart while working hard. 
  9. You can forgive everyone and everything for it will release you from self-destruction. 
  10. Envy is a waste of energy, you already have all you need. 
  11. Attune to the idea that what others think of you is none of your business. 
  12. Realize that there is a poverty that only riches can generate, and a wealth only generosity can create. 
Together, they spell HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

I am gratified that the post has since been reposted and shared by my friends on FB and emails. I am glad they resonate with many.

In regard to #1, one of the things that count is friendship. The values inherent in friendship including loyalty, faithfulness, and empathy are truly precious.

In December, my wife and I chose to spend our vacation in Japan simply to reconnect with Japanese friends. My friend was a scientist in Canada when we met more 34 years ago. We became fast friends and when they returned to Japan 32 years ago, we kept in touch by snail mail.

Unfortunately, we lost touch because we were on the move. Our efforts to find each other were futile till about 4 months ago when he found me on Facebook. Though we had not seen each other for 32 years, we were able to pick up where we left off without missing a beat. “It’s a miracle that you could visit us after all these years,” he said when he welcomed us with his wife beside him at the Haneda Airport. We spent the next 8 days together with great joy.

With Japanese friends

Just two days ago, 115 of us gathered at the NUSS Guild House for a Reunion of the cohort of VCF of the then University of Singapore between 1971-75. I graduated from law 45 years ago and I have not met some of my classmates and friends from different faculties since I graduated. It was most nostalgic to be able to gather again and to sing the good old songs we used to sing as students of the 60s and 70s. We rekindled our friendship that was forged though our many student activities as members of VCF. Many agreed that the night spent together was one of the best evenings of nostalgia and fun since graduation between 40 and 45 years ago.

In regard to #3, my friend Nutan Shah sent me the following personal story which I am pleased to share:

“Ah, the power of a smile!

A smile has different meanings to different adults. Those who are afraid perhaps feel vulnerable, weak, fear further consequences, see no meaning in acknowledging a stranger, have misconceptions about the person they are looking at…

But those who smile boldly, perhaps even make eye contact, seem to get a rush of endorphin and serotonin, feel a sense of gratitude towards humankind. Simple courtesy, in a sense, as simple as an instant expression and does not necessarily imply that one will be placed in any vulnerable position after that instance.

For me, it is that rush of feeling good, so that for just a few seconds one can forget everything and 'chill'. It’s a kind of "I see you" thing.

Once in a shoe shop with no long queues or no rush of customers, I walked up to the cashier with my purchases and greeted her with a warm smile. The cashier refused to make eye contact or smile or even answer back. Instead she grabbed the purchases and started packing them. The synapses in my brain fired off in milliseconds and I could have reacted in one of two ways. I could be upset by her behaviour or I could engage her. I chose the latter.

“I bet you wear comfortable footwear as you have to stand for so long behind the till and it must get rather tiring, hey?" I piped out with a careful smile being thoughtful that it is not misunderstood as being cheeky. At that, the cashier said, "Yeah, and it gets so boring when there are no customers.

"Well, I can't promise you a song and dance unless I pay half price for those shoes!" I said. The cashier laughed.

Aha! I thought. We have made some progress.

I then exclaimed, “And if you can do a 2 for 1 deal, you will think you are watching X factor".

The cashier was instantly transformed into a beautiful person doubling over in laughter. There is power in a smile. There are health benefits and even a sense of security when you are armed with a winsome smile. You never know who you may have to team up with.

Yes, indeed, a smile is truly a global language. So next time we type a smiley on whatsapp, and smile, we know in that instant that we are, after all, human. The smile is the most natural human response only human can make without a thought.”

So, go ahead and smile. If you do, you will soon find that the world will soon be smiling with you!

Photo via