Reading Bug ~ Act of Kindness #10

I came across this Reading Corner at the airport, of all places.

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Intrigued, I wanted to inspect the titles and savour this joyful moment of discovering such a corner in an airport. First, however, I wanted to take a photo to prove I wasn’t hallucinating.

But as I lifted my camera, a little poppet galloped towards the shelves, shrieking, “Book! Book!”

I paused. A Reading Corner in a public space with books and a poppet excited by books?

Life had more surprises for me. The father grabbed the poppet. “Meimei, wait. Let the auntie take her photo first.”

It really was too much. I snapped the photo, thanked the father, waved at the poppet and retreated.

Inspecting book titles can wait. Celebrating this little vignette cannot. I am warmed by a father’s kind understanding and gracious patience, and a tiny child’s enthusiasm for books. And by the use of potential retail space for encouraging reading.

There is hope yet.

The Umbrella ~ Act of Kindness #9

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We moved into the neighbourhood about ten years ago.

For some reason, I never really got to know the neighbours. We would nod awkwardly when our paths crossed or we would politely return misdirected mail but that was it. Perhaps it was my work schedule. Perhaps it was theirs. Or, as The Munchkin suggested, perhaps it was my face, which looks even worse when I smile.

Anyway, sometime in 2016, The Munchkin and I went shopping in the neighbourhood mall. As we prepared to leave, we were confronted with relentless rain. At the edge of the covered walkway stood Mr K. He was clutching his phone and we heard him say, “I can’t come right now because it’s raining,” as we drew nearer.

I handed him my umbrella. “Take it.”

I’ve never seen greater flabbergasted relief. “I … yes … no … yes … yourself?”

The Munchkin brandished our second umbrella (nobody remembers why we had two), and I assured Mr K that we would be fine. He grabbed the umbrella like a life vest and shot off across the street. We continued home.

We had barely put away our shopping when the doorbell rang. There was Mr K, Junior K, and my umbrella. There were thanks and pleasantries all round and that was that.

But it wasn’t. Thereafter, Mr K and his family never failed to say hi or stop to chat. Then the other neighbours started saying hi. And now we pretty much know everybody, and it feels like we’re a community.

Thanks, of all things, to an umbrella.

Helping Hands ~ Act of Kindness #8

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photo credit: bady qb

Yesterday, I took a crowded bus home. Three stops later, it stopped for a Young Lady with a backpack and a tote bag on her shoulders, a stroller in which was a sleeping little one, and she was verbally managing a three (maybe four) year old.

Her accoutrements couldn’t quite fit past the support pole at the boarding point, so she moved to the rear where there was supposed to be a retractable ramp. Naturally, this was the bus with a driver who couldn’t or wouldn’t get the ramp out.

Young Lady ordered the three year old to precede her up the bus. Middle-Aged Uncle vacated his seat for the child, who took one look at him and shrieked for reasons only he knew. The startled Young Lady, who was still on the pavement, panicked.

Unfortunately, the gap between the pavement and the edge of the step was too wide for her to safely tilt the stroller’s front wheels up and into the bus – if you’ve ever pushed a stroller, you’ll know what I mean. In any case, there was another step at that doorway to conquer before getting all the way in.

Three of us had moved forward at this point to help. The three year old shrieked louder, the little one was now awake and displeased, Young Woman was frazzled and the bus driver was glaring in the rear view mirror. (Seriously, you couldn’t do something more useful? Like lower the ramp?)

An Elderly Uncle appeared. He gestured for us to move back, told Young Lady to tend to the three year old and physically lugged the stroller up the bus. Middle Aged Uncle had taken Young Lady’s bags and placed them on the seat. While we were all relieved that the little group was now safely inside the bus, we were concerned that the driver would move off before Elderly Uncle alighted. Fortunately, the driver apparently had enough sense to wait. Also, an Auntie up front had started raising her voice at him. (Good!)

There was a chorus of thanks all round. Elderly Uncle waved at us all and went on his way. We moved on. Sadly, I can’t tell you what fate befell the driver because I alighted at the next stop.

Thank you all, especially Elderly Uncle, for extending helping hands where they were needed.

His Dream ~ Act of Kindness #7

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photo credit: nick karvounis

Paul Simon had a dream: he wanted to cook for his President someday. He also dreamed of opening his own restaurant where he would cook dishes from his mother’s recipes; but that would come later.

A graduate of ASPN (Association for Persons with Special Needs) Delta Senior School, he was employed in a leading hotel as a cook, where his mild intellectual disability was not an issue to him, his supervisors or the hotel guests.

In December 2017, Mr Simon was interviewed  for an article celebrating the International Day of Disabled Persons. In it, he mentioned his two dreams.

On 24 January 2018, Mr Simon fulfilled one of these dreams. The President had read the article and had her staff contact him, extending an invitation to cook for her. So, on that day, that’s what he did. He cooked and served a three-course lunch for President Halimah at the Istana (the official residence and office of the President). And joined her for a chat as she had her dessert.

Thank you, Madam President, for that invitation and for making a dream come true.

Oy, Auntie! ~ Act of Kindness #6

I was early for my lunch with my BFF today. While waiting, I ordered a coffee and sat down to read at a nearby coffeeshop. 30 minutes later, she arrived and off we went to our lunch venue.

We took the downward escalator; I was in front, my BFF a step behind me. Mid-way down, we heard a loud male voice bellow, “Oy, Auntie! Aun-tie!”

There followed the thump of a foot that caused the escalator to vibrate. I turned, as did my BFF. As did the middle-aged man behind her. As did everybody else within hearing distance.

A young man stood at the head of the escalator waving a book. “Oy, Auntie, your book!”

Yep, I’d left my book in the coffeeshop. I had a choice: head back upwards on that escalator or reach the bottom and take the other one up.

The young man solved the dilemma. He took two steps down, handed the book to the middle-aged man and pointed at me. Then he bounded back up what was now five steps.

The least I could do was bellow back my thanks. He waved cheerily back. My highly mortified book was passed from the middle-aged man to my BFF to me. (It has since buried itself inside my tote and refused to reappear.)

I am deeply grateful to the young man who bothered to track down a forgetful reader. My thanks also to the man and BFF who helped to reunite a book and its owner.

Noodle Auntie ~ Act of Kindness #5

For as long as we’ve lived in the neighbourhood, we’ve had Sunday brunch at the coffee shop whenever we could. It wasn’t a large shop; just seven stalls offering drinks, vegetarian noodles, congee, prawn noodles, wanton noodles, Indian food and economical rice.

We were generally happy to eat from each stall in rotation. It got to the point even the stall owners knew whose turn it was to serve us. However, the Munchkin had an affinity for the wanton noodles and often ate it for weeks in a row.

This stall was run by a couple. Uncle prepared the noodles: dry, braised, with or without chilli, cooked soft or al dente just the way the customers ordered. Auntie did the plating and garnishing, often also delivering the bowls right to the tables.

But Auntie did much more for us. Over the years, she cut the Munchkin’s noodles into short little strips so it was easy for a child to scoop with a spoon. She made Uncle boil the noodles longer so they would be softer. She added extra sauce. She smuggled out extra wantons. Later, it was vegetables. When there was a moment to spare, she would sit with us for a chat.

The Munchkin had wanton noodles the day before leaving for college. Auntie cried and offered all sorts of advice about living alone. Even Uncle, whose voice we’ve pretty much never heard, said, “Study hard!” from behind his giant soup pot.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then I’m beyond thankful Auntie (and Uncle) and my family live in the same one. Thank you, Auntie.

Cab Ride ~ Act of Kindness #4

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photo credit: peter kasprzyk

I took a cab today because, as usual, I was running late. Plus, it was raining.

The driver and I discussed the weather. How it was -67C somewhere in Russia, and how it was 43C somewhere in Australia. An earlier passenger, he said, had griped about how it once rained for seven straight days where he lived, while his sister’s hometown was in danger from drought.

Then he asked how late I was staying out and how I was getting home.

Can you blame me for blurting out, “Huh?”

He waggled one hand skywards. “This rain won’t stop anytime soon.”

“O-kaaay,” I said.

“I don’t know if you remember about the train disruptions this weekend? Nothing running eastbound from 10:30 tonight through to Sunday midnight.”

I had, indeed, forgotten about that.

“The buses will be packed – how you going to board? Better to leave earlier from wherever you are and get the train. You don’t want to be stuck in town without a ride. And remember about surge pricing in case you want to do Grab.”

Yes, I had a great evening. And, yes, I left in time to catch the last train safely home. Thanks to a kindly driver.