It happened back in 2012. I was just done with my weekly run around the neighbourhood, part of my annual attempt to improve my IPPT timing. As I trudged home with barely functioning legs, I passed families out enjoying the cool evening breeze. There were rowdy children chasing each other at the playground as grandparents watched nervously and parents stared into their mobile screens.
It was in that idyllic moment that I caught a whiff of a foul stench. I checked my soles, immediately regretting the less trodden path I had taken earlier. Nothing. I looked around; the lady walking in front of me had her nose wrinkled and was equally puzzled. Brown patches dotted the pavement, incriminating evidence leading to an elderly grandmother wiping bits off her heel.
“Poor thing,” I thought, “Lucky I didn’t step on it.”
It was only after I passed her that I noticed the brown patches on her long flowery dress, the kind which pass as pyjamas, which you could only get at heartland stores. She tried her best to hurry along, tugging the thin fabric where it hugged her skinny frame in a sordid embrace.
Looking back, I wish I didn’t walk away, didn’t pretend that my indifference would leave room for her dignity. Three years on, a fellow Singaporean proved that I could have done more.
Madam Noriza, a 50-year-old bed sheet promoter was in a supermarket in Toa Payoh when she saw 70-year-old Mr Tan Soy Yong with his wheelchair-bound wife. He had soiled himself and all around, people were flinching and distancing themselves. Instead of doing the same, Madam Noriza stepped forward to clean the mess and even bought new shorts for Mr Tan.
Since that day, she continued to use her days off to visit the elderly couple, even after they were moved to nursing homes. For her inspirational compassion, Madam Noriza was named Singaporean of the Year this February.
Screenshot taken from Straits Times
“I hope everyone will do something like me and not ignore people who are poor and handicapped. Actually, they don’t want to be in this kind of situation. Don’t neglect them,” said Madam Noriza in a media interview.
I choose to believe that we all share Madam’s Noriza’s compassion and courage, though perhaps in varying degrees for the latter. It usually helps if somebody else takes the first step. After that, it doesn’t really matter.
On Valentine’s Day this year, a lorry skidded on the Bukit Timah Expressway and ended up overturned across two lanes. The driver was unhurt but the vehicle was squarely blocking the entrance of the expressway. It looked to be a massive traffic jam before the vehicle recovery team could get past all the backed up traffic to remove the lorry.
But instead of standing around and waiting for help, ordinary Singaporeans stepped forward. Fellow motorists, passengers from two buses nearby and a lion dance troupe streamed to the lorry, put hands to metal and pushed. Within moments, the vehicle was moved to the side of the expressway.
This same conviction and strength was demonstrated in a video that is making its rounds on the Internet. Part of a ground up campaign movement, former radio DJ Divan Nair staked his belief in Singapore and named the glue that defines us as a nation. Though provocatively named “I Will Not Die For Singapore”, the video belies his deep faith in Singapore and equally, his courage to step forward and be counted.
It has only been 2 months since the end of the year-long SG50 celebrations. But in these 2 months, so many have stepped forward with compassion and courage. SG51 may not have a nice ring to it but we are as proud, if not more, of ordinary Singaporeans doing great things.