Contentment frees us up to be generous

December 15, 2014

MR TOH Soon Huat’s decision to give up his well-paying job in order to devote his full attention to saving an ailing charity (“Driven by passion to help the poor”; last Monday) demonstrates remarkable compassion for and commitment to Singapore’s less fortunate.

Critics may point out that it is easy for successful business people, like Mr Toh, to make sacrifices for charities. After all, they already have so much that it must be easy for them to give up the accumulation of more wealth.

I am not sure that is always true, for, in reality, it is very difficult for any of us to determine what is enough.

Contentment is a virtue that is driven by an abundance mindset. This mindset does not measure success only in financial terms, specifically, on the acquisition side. It values people before profits, and by not putting a monetary price on talent and success, it refuses be trapped by the insatiable desire to have just a little more.

There is a Chinese saying that translates roughly into “it is not possible to earn all the money in the world”. It counsels us to learn how to say “enough”, and to devote our time and efforts to other pursuits.

I would not hesitate to say that one of the noblest pursuits in making a life, and not just a living, is to reach down, and help pull your neighbour up.

Mr Toh is one of these people who have chosen to look beyond their own needs, and to the needs of society.

We may never be like him in devoting our full attention to a chosen charity. But we can do our part, however small, if we learn to be content.

Contentment frees us up to be generous. Imagine what a gracious society we might have, if more of us valued kindness, forbearance and compassion, over the seduction of wealth.

Dr William Wan
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement

First published in The Straits Times – December 15, 2014

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