Kindness is part of our nature

April 07, 2015

OUR founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, brought a nation together at his death, as he did in his lifetime.

It was heartening to see our nation united in grief, regardless of race, language, religion, or political affiliation.

Much was also exceptional in another way. Amid the grief, innumerable acts of kindness bubbled to the surface.

These were picked up and spread by news outlets – stories of individuals and businesses that came to offer mourners refreshment and shade, those who gave generously in flowers, bottled water or their time.

At the Padang, volunteers helped to pick up litter, so that those in the queues might be more comfortable.

The team from the Singapore Kindness Movement was there, and noticed that some of those volunteers were even non-Singaporean – true friends who came to support us in a time of grief.

It is easy to say that exceptional times bring out exceptional kindness, that emotional vulnerability begets emotional generosity.

It is easy to believe that this tremendous loss helped bring out a united, kind, gracious, patient and helpful people, accepting of differences, and respectful.

But what if kindness is, in fact, inherent in our humanity? What if these individual acts of generosity and graciousness from two weeks ago that seemed so exceptional were, in fact, simple acts of everyday kindness, made exceptional by virtue of the circumstances in which they were performed?

I say this not to put down the efforts of the many volunteers, or the many instances of generosity that have been inspired by the tragedy of loss.

On the contrary, my heart is gladdened to see so much selflessness being demonstrated.

Kindness does not discriminate between occasions. Kindness simply is. And we should simply celebrate it whenever manifested.

What this outpouring of kindness proves is that Singaporeans are not an emotionless people, an unhappy people, or an unkind people.

We did not suddenly become kind because of the extraordinary situation a fortnight ago. Kindness must have been a part of our nature, for us to express it so easily and spontaneously.

Kindness is in us. There is no reason to be any less of a Nation of Kindness in ordinary times.

Koh Poh Tiong
Singapore Kindness Movement

First published in The Straits Times – April 7, 2015

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