Goodbye, 2017. Hello, 2018.

Sharing a meal with my family in Kyoto 

Last year was especially significant for me. I became a septuagenarian! In my honour, a couple of good friends, Soo Inn and Bernice, reprinted 47 of my published articles in a book aptly titled Born in ’47.

Born in '47 - A Life In Writing

The WAN tribe of 10 descended from the USA and Canada to celebrate. For the first time in years, we had our family vacation in Kyoto. And for the first time in years, Ruth and I took a cruise around the Mediterranean and the Baltic, spent some time in Northern England and Scotland and Spain. Over the years I have been to many of these places because of work, but I have not been good at taking vacations. However, this time around, I felt it was time to vacate my usual work routine and do something different. It was a “working vacation” – interviewing folks on the cruise about living well and leaving well – a book project I am working on.

Last year has also been literarily productive. With the help of my research and editorial assistants, I managed to launch two books – My Best with Honour and Clearly Different. The former is about scouting values supported by the Singapore Scout Association and the Ministry of Education. It was launched at the Istana by former President, Dr Tony Tan. The latter was to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Dyslexic Association of Singapore. It was launched by former Secretary General of ASEAN, Mr Ong Keng Yong. Both are available at all major bookstores.

It is always a privilege and joy to solemnise and officiate marriages. There were many requests last year but I could only accede to a dozen or so because of time constraints. Many of these young couples are known to me or connected to people I know. More significantly, many are the children of my friends – and the joy is more than doubled. In a couple of cases, I also solemnised their parents’ marriages a generation ago!

At the end of last year, I was honoured with the President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropic Award 2017 for the Senior Individual category.

The award was for my volunteerism and philanthropic work in general but my co-founding the Prison Fellowship Singapore (PFS) was highlighted.

This charity has a long history, going back to the Honorary Chaplaincy of the late Rev Khoo Siaw Hwa in the 50s to the founding of Rehabilitation Life Ltd with his son, Rev Henry Khoo, and elder Seet Poon Soo in the 70s to the change of name to Prison Fellowship Singapore in the 80s.

PFS team at the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run
Over the years, hundreds of volunteers and staff of PFS have contributed significantly to the transformation of many lives. So this award is really to honour Rev Khoo Siaw Hwa, my cofounders the late Rev Henry Khoo and Elder Seet Poon Soo, and hundreds of volunteers and staff over the years.

So, I begin 2018 with a deep sense of gratitude. I am thankful for being of reasonable good health to continue doing what I truly enjoy – to be helpful and to make a positive difference here and there. There is still much to do, and very little time to do them all. But I will press on, one day at a time.

Looking forward, I hope to complete Living Well, Leaving Well. The questions I am trying to deal with are, “Have I lived well, if I do not leave well?” and “Is it possible to leave well if I had not lived well”? I hope to find practical insights into living well and leaving well.

This year is also the 21st Anniversary of the Singapore Kindness Movement. We are working with the Singapore Science Centre to produce a Musical titled, The Science of Kindness.

This is also an important year where SGCares will be launched and we are strongly in support of it. Caring is indeed Kindness in Action – to be kind is to care.

To be caring as a society, we need to see many more ground-up movements spontaneously seeking to promote care in all aspects of life in our society. Recently, I have been thinking about a GSK Movement. Since we often eat at Hawker Centres and other places where we do not pay GST, why not give the Goods and Services Tax we would otherwise have to pay to those in need – the uncles and aunties who serve us by cleaning the place? It will be a random act of kindness – Goods and Services Kindness Movement can promote more spontaneous acts of kindness.

If you have other ideas to start something kind, you can help initiate a ground-up movement. Please talk to us about it and we would be glad to support you.

May the New Year be prepared for you by FAITH, gently wrapped for you by HOPE and affectionately delivered to you by LOVE. May you experience FAITH, HOPE and LOVE today and every day throughout 2018 and beyond!


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