Buffet Line ~ Act of Kindness #11

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photo credit: peter hansen

Some years ago, I sustained an injury that required walking temporarily with a cane for balance and support. With my usual impeccable sense of timing, I was booked on a cruise that would be sailing during this recovery period.

I had two obvious choices – cancel or proceed with cane. The family (and the doctor) felt a cruise was leisurely enough for me to manage, provided I was careful during embarking and disembarking. So off we went.

My movements were slower than I would have liked and stairs were unfriendly obstacle courses, but the relaxed atmosphere made mobility less of an issue than I had feared. Until the buffet line.

I don’t remember how I ended up separated from the family but there I stood before the row of serving dishes, wondering how I would hold onto my cane, my plate and dish my food.

“Did you want the chicken or the beef?”

Young Lady Passenger spoke from behind me, smiling cheerfully. “Chicken? If you pass me your plate, I’ll get it for you.”

I remember staring at her, startled into silence. She must have thought I was really, really slow. Which I was, obviously, in more ways than one.

“What else, Auntie? You want veggies? Pasta?”

I protested that I could manage and that she should get her own food but, nope. She heaped my plate, and then left the line to carry the plate all the way to my seat.

I have never forgotten that act of kindness and unselfishness. If you happen to be reading this, know that I remain extremely humbled and grateful. Thank you.



Johnny Depp and the Five Stars

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FANBOYS, ROY B GIV, MICE … No matter what the subject, mnemonics have served learners all over the world well.

My country’s flag has five stars and a crescent moon. At school, most kids have no problems explaining what the moon represents. But the five stars? We’ve heard everything from lights to twinkles.

About a decade ago, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End reached our shores. Somewhere in the movie is a scene where Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fatt), the Pirate Lord of Singapore, says, “Welcome to Singapore,” to the merry band of sailors here to rescue Jack Sparrow.

Historically, that wasn’t even what our country was called in the 1700s. But that’s not the point. My friends and I had an epiphany: Sparrow – Johnny Depp – star – Singapore! That was it!

Justice, Democracy, Equality, Peace, Progress. Those are the ideals as depicted by the five stars on the state flag.

And thanks to J Depp, I haven’t forgotten them yet.





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.



He Had A 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.



Three Pages ~ Act of Kindness #3

While many genuine and satisfactory transactions occur on websites such as eBay or Carousell, it is probably fair to say that such sites are not typically the source of random acts of kindness.

Yet, an act of kindness happened on such a site.

This Seller received a message requesting pictures of three specific pages from a textbook she (or he) had listed. Several messages to and fro later, it transpired that the buyer was a kid who had left his (or her) textbook in school and needed it to complete his homework. He was honest: he didn’t want to buy the book. He just needed those three pages required for his homework.

The kid had not been able to reach his friends (who apparently had long gone to bed) nor could he find the relevant pages anywhere else. In desperation, he searched for the textbook on Carousell, found a copy and put forth his request to the presumably bemused Seller. Where others might have brushed off the kid’s request, the Seller obliged.

photo credit: jess watters

We could, of course, ask why the kid was still up at that hour trying to complete his homework. Or how he ended up on that site. Or wonder if we would have done the same in the Seller’s shoes.

Or we could applaud a kid’s solution to his problem – a study in thinking out of the box. And appreciate a seller’s generosity to a stranger in need.

Thank you, Seller, for your kindness in sending those three pages.






The Crossing ~ Act of Kindness #1

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photo credit: Lily Lvnatikk


So there I was, approaching a busy traffic crossing. Already poised to cross were two teens and a few other pedestrians.

The lights changed. Instead of crossing, the teens turned back to gesture animatedly at a younger child whom I had not noticed earlier. She stood beneath a tree, steadfastly refusing to proceed, crossed her arms and plopped herself on the bench. As the traffic light beeped its 10-second warning, the teens shrugged and continued on their way.

I had reached the crossing by then, and waited for the next light change. The teens had disappeared from view but the child had stood and scrunched up her face, pacing before the tree.

Out of seemingly nowhere, an auntie appeared and bent to ask the child if she was lost. Then another auntie appeared, already digging out her phone and asking, “Eh, girl, where’s your mummy?”

I was on the verge of going up to explain about the teens when the lights changed and we were all swept forward. The aunties held her hands and, reaching the other side, they continued to ask her for her name and where she’d last seen her family.

Then there was a shriek and one of the teens popped out from a store. The child shrieked back. Reunion.

The little drama at the traffic crossing could have ended in a completely different direction. But what mattered was how the aunties stepped up to help a child they didn’t know.

Thank you, aunties. Your kindness enriched my day.