Created on Saturday, 23 April 2011 00:00
Written by Samuel Yeoh
The month of March has been a challenging time for us Singaporeans. With the erratic weather alternating between hot sweltering afternoons that made walking a perspiring chore and wet rainy days that inconvenienced our travelling routes, every day was full of uncertainty. One false step and the rubber band weather would ensure that we ended up lying in sickbeds, down with flu or fever.
Around the same time in another place on Earth, Japan was struck by a double disaster of earthquake and tsunami, which quickly spiralled downwards to include a new disaster from their troubled nuclear reactors. In the face of unprecedented destruction and a nuclear crisis, coupled with the loss of thousands of lives, the Japanese people faced a grim situation indeed.
Suddenly our troubles don’t seem such a big deal after all. What’s a little inconvenience compared with their massive loss of property? What’s a little flu and fever compared to death? Not much really.
In our day to day lives, it is easy to get overly caught up with ourselves and forget our place in the grander scheme of things. And then something comes along and gives us a rude jolt to remind us of how insignificant our trivial concerns are.
Just the other day, I caught a commercial for a new local game show on television. Among one of the questions asked was, ‘What are Singaporeans’ favourite past time?’ To which the answer undoubtedly was, ‘Complaining!’
Whether it be tongue-in-cheek or a statistically proven fact, it is still a little worrying. While some complains can be justified, when it becomes a national past time, it must mean we really have nothing better to do than to nit-pick about everything around us.
I’ll admit I’m no angel either, and I was caught complaining about the wet weather by an expatriate friend. Rather than complaining along with me, he neatly remarked that nowhere else in the world had he seen such a well sheltered country, where covered walkways extend from MRTs all the way to HDBs. Anywhere else and we’d be walking in the rain. It kind of left me speechless for a moment.
How did we become so small-minded over the years? Living in comfort sure has left me taking for granted some of luxuries we have.
Watching the news of how the Japanese people responded to their tragedy, I am deeply sobered. Despite the massive adversity they face, they remain stoic, taking it in stride. For most part, there is order as people queue up to purchase necessities from the few shops that are still open. In the shelters, people are doing what they can to help, while victims put up with the difficulties they suffer with little fuss.
If it were me, I would no doubt be complaining about the freezing weather, the lack of warm clothes and food, the crowded sleeping spaces, and so on. Someone would have to tape my mouth shut.
Yet from the footage of the common people that streams out of Japan, there is one theme that resonates strongly to me – it is a silent resilience, an acceptance that calamity happens, and that life must and will go on.
In the light of such a stark contrast, I can’t help but be humbled. While we’re busy reaching out with donations and aid, let’s not forget what Japan can teach us as well. Even as our daily bustle threatens to consume us with its fair share of trite worries which are no less important, let us remember to take the occasional step back, inhale a deep breath, and see our problems for what they are – just another day of life that will go on.
As Japan continues the struggle to contain their nuclear crisis, they can be assured that my heart and prayers are with them, and so is my respect, if it means anything.