The Simple Things Are Free

the best things in life are free
 
In 2 years, Singapore will be 50-years old. For a nation, 50 years is perhaps an adolescent age – not an infant, neither a full adult yet. Our nation is undergoing a sort of identity crisis. Who are we? What makes us ‘Singaporean’? What, in effect, defines us as a people? These undoubtedly are loaded questions, and each of us will have his own answers to offer.
 
While we ponder on these, we should not be too hard on ourselves, or be too eager to have definitive answers. We are 50-years old, a young age for a nation. We have some ways to go yet, in forging our own identity. 
 
What perhaps we should be more interested in is perhaps things which are not so nationalistic, but things which are more universal. Values which determine and mould us as a people, for example. Universal values – such as kindness.
 
Recent examples of Singaporeans reaching out to their fellow men and women in need perhaps give us more hope than pessimism.
 
These recent examples show that Singaporeans are indeed big-hearted people and would extend a hand when the need arises – whatever racial or religious background they may belong to.
 
And at a time when many issues occupy our national consciousness and, in the words of the Prime Minister, as we feel our way forward, it is very heartening to see how even in the midst of this there are those among us who take time to stop and care.
 
Mr Tong Ming Ming is perhaps deserving of the highest accolade. Many were moved by his utterly selfless act of generosity and compassion in donating most of his liver to a colleague of his secondary school friend. 
 
"Time was running out. I just knew that I had to help," Mr Tong told the press in August.
 
“The Ministry of Health confirmed that this was the first altruistic liver donation here by an unrelated living donor - someone with no blood or emotional ties to the patient,” the Straits Times reported.
 
It not only takes compassion but also courage to give of oneself so generously.
 
Some were so touched by Mr Tong that they are calling him a true Singaporean hero and for him to be recognised with a National Day award. Few would argue against that.
 
An ordinary man doing quite an extraordinary thing indeed.
 
And to add to the good karma, a plastic surgeon has offered to repair the scars on Mr Tong’s body – free of charge.
 
During the haze in June which shrouded Singapore, many too went out of their way to extend their help to those in need – those like Mr Lucian Teo.
 
“When I saw that some Singaporeans had set up the Facebook page ‘SG Haze Rescue’ to coordinate ground-up efforts to ensure that the welfare of the more vulnerable among us were taken care of, I joined immediately,” Mr Teo wrote on his blog. “I live a stone’s throw away from Dakota Crescent, a community of poorer Singaporeans who occupied government-subsidised rental flats.”
 
Mr Teo’s kindness was highlighted by the Defence Minister, Dr Ng Eng Hen, in Parliament. 
 
Dr Ng told the House, “Mr Lucian Teo distributed masks to residents of rental flats near his home and blogged, “I am so glad that I did this, I write this because I wish it for you too. That we might all step out a little…..and find ourselves a society worth living in and contributing to.”
 
When navy serviceman Jason Chee lost both his legs and an arm to a horrendous accident, Dr Ng took a personal interest and visited Mr Chee in hospital and promised that he will get all the help he needed in his recovery.  Dr Ng has been keeping involved and in touch with Mr Chee since then. The minister, who continues to visit Mr Chee, said he was "truly inspired" by Mr Chee and that the serviceman had made great progress in his recovery, the Straits Times reported. 
 
In July, Law Minister K Shanmugam went to the aid of a woman who was crossing the four-lane Robinson Road and had been hit by a motorcycle and was lying on the ground. Mr Shanmugam was on his way back to his office when he had the encounter. 
 
"I didn't see (the woman) being hit but there was someone gesticulating. The accident had happened a few seconds earlier," Mr Shanmugam said, and stressed that he was not the only person who helped the lady.
 
During the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, some bloggers came together to chip in and organise a breaking fast evening for the folks, which included some 60 children, over at Jalan Kukoh, many of whom lived in the rental flats around that area. (See here.)
 
Such acts of kindness are not always so newsworthy, of course. Many such acts take place daily, innocuously, and those responsible are faceless, unknown. They are the strangers who give up a seat for you in the train and the bus, the ones who hold the door open for others, those who say “thank you” for small deeds. That smile of appreciation, a nod of approval, a handshake, a wave of the hand of thanks at a traffic crossing.
 
We have seen these. There are a thousand little acts of kindness each day which go unnoticed.
 
So, more than defining Singaporean-ness as a love for food, or a love for shopping, or a place and people with a “can-do” attitude, or some lofty ideals, perhaps it is the simplest things which will determine and define who we are.
 
And, as they say, the simple things are free.
 
 
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