Kindness knows no national boundaries

October 28, 2013

SINGAPORE – I refer to the report “Call them foreign gallant” (The New Paper, Oct 19).

Having grown up in the kampungs of the 1950s, I have experienced first-hand the joys of living in an environment where neighbourly sharing and caring for one another were second nature.

Over the years, however, the character of our neighbourhoods has evolved. Today, by and large, our high-rise neighbours may be acquaintances at best and strangers for the most part. This is most unfortunate, to say the least.

It moved me, therefore, to read about the escape made by a group of elderly flatmates, thanks to the timely aid of a group of civic-minded individuals without whose intervention, the situation would have taken a more sinister turn.

Beyond being quick-witted and brave, these men deserve praise for the selflessness they displayed.

It takes a special kind of courage to jump into a dangerous situation as they did, and as demonstrated by their statements after, it was the simple desire to help others in need that drove them.

It is noteworthy that some among them are migrant workers. I am gratified that they did not hesitate to act in a civic-minded manner here as they would have at home, showing us that kindness truly knows no national boundaries.

Similarly, it was selfless of Madam Letchumy to stay behind and lend comfort to her neighbour who was trapped in a flat, despite the escalating situation.

In the wake of earlier reports of unhelpful behaviour (“Everybody was taking pictures and not helping out” and “No one came forward”, Oct 15) in emergency situations, this incident provides hope that public-spiritedness is not an obsolete value in Singapore.

If more of us make the effort to thaw the sometimes icy ways with which we treat our neighbours, there will be more spontaneous desire to help others.

A neighbour is not simply by virtue of our living in close proximity to one another. Good neighbourliness is a function of rediscovering the kampung spirit that is inherent in each of us.

It begins with a smile and an acknowledgment of our common humanity, regardless of race, religion and social status.

Dr William Wan
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement

First published in The New Paper – October 26, 2013

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