Chorus of voices calling for return of ‘kampung spirit’

February 22, 2013

ACTING Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong’s call to “aspire to a higher-minded, others-centred notion of happiness” runs parallel to what the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) is about (“Campaign country no more?”; last Friday).

Kindness and graciousness, by definition, are others-centric. And kindness is part of the happiness quotient. When mutual kindness is practised, there is an exchange that makes a positive and meaningful impact on both giver and receiver, eliciting feelings of shared goodwill and joy. A kind society is a happy society.

For us to nurture Singapore into a happier place to call home, there needs to be a concerted effort by ordinary Singaporeans everywhere to make a difference through kind acts of their own.

We are pleased that SKM is not a lone voice crying in the wilderness. There are many organisations, ground-up initiatives, informal groups and individuals who are actively promoting kindness, graciousness and pro-social behaviours in words and deeds. There is a chorus of voices longing for the return of the “kampung spirit” of good neighbourliness and graciousness towards one another.

It is heartening that some of our young people, who have never lived in a kampung, are urging us to bring back the kampung spirit. If we can re-assimilate this value of looking out for one another in our modern high-rise neighbourhoods, wouldn’t this make for a definition of graciousness that has a truly Singaporean identity?

We live in challenging times. Regardless of our differences, we must challenge ourselves to believe that we can coalesce around values and aspirations like happiness, kindness, graciousness and other pro-social norms.

History reveals that strong nations are built on the positive platform of being for something bigger than the individual. Believing in and practising kindness to our neighbours, beginning with each of us as individuals, will result in the happiness of the giver and receiver. In time, it will eventually permeate our society and touch all in different ways. And happiness is the natural by-product.

Dr William Wan
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement

First published in The Straits Times – February 22, 2013

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