Kindness is alive and well in Singapore: PM Lee

March 20, 2014

Kindness is alive and well in Singapore, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Facebook post on Wednesday amid an ongoing debate on whether the country lacked compassion.

Along with his post, PM Lee attached a photo of six-year-old Rowan Chua, who is shown sharing a priority seat with an older lady on the train.

The boy, who had sent the picture to Mr Lee, included the words: “There are compassionate people in Singapore. See? This elderly woman even shared half her seat with me.”

Mr Lee said that being kind goes beyond giving up seats, and extends to “adopting a mindset of being considerate and sensitive to others’ needs”, and showing appreciation when kindness is shown.

“Better still, pay it forward. Rowan’s message made me smile, just like the elderly woman who shared her seat with him put a smile on Rowan’s face. Do something nice for someone today, and put a smile on their face!” he wrote.

Mr Lee also thanked those who had written in to him and shared their experiences in response to his post on Sunday on graciousness.

“Some have offered useful advice: if you really need a seat, just ask for it, and if someone gives up a seat for you, please smile and say thank you,” Mr Lee added.

On Sunday, he had written on Facebook that even as the country has made progress in levels of courtesy and kindness over the years, it “can still do much better”.

The message was sparked by a BBC commentary by freelance writer Charlotte Ashton over the weekend.

She described how, during her 10th week of pregnancy, she was nauseous and had to crouch for 15 minutes in the MRT as no one offered her a seat.

The expatriate concluded that Singapore suffered from a “massive compassion deficit”, eliciting strong reactions from the public.

At a separate event on Wednesday, Law Minister K. Shanmugam also waded into the debate.

“I think we have moved some distance from where we were and have become a more gracious society, but I think we also have some distance to go,” said Mr Shanmugam, adding that he had heard from quite a few pregnant women who had similar negative experiences.

First published in The Straits Times – March 19, 2014

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