Way of showing compassion is different in S’pore


Laletha Nithiyanandan

Published: 4:13 AM, March 27, 2014

I read the proclamation that Singapore is “misery city” with amusement and was heartened to see responses in Voices defending our island and its way of life. Perhaps the issue is not the statement, but the sentiment.

In Singapore, we show compassion differently. In the bustle of a busy commute, it is easy to look around and dismiss the people around you as cold and selfish, if you expect them to reach out without you asking. They may not, but they are a community that has worked hard together, wants to do better and would help if you ask for help.

Last week, I was behind a car park exit gantry, with insufficient funds in my CashCard and a car pulling up behind me. I headed to the CashCard machine, but it declined my ATM card.

I scanned the area, but could not find a parking attendant. Finally, I went to the driver behind and confessed I had no idea what more I could do. He got out of his car, took my CashCard and topped it up with S$20. When I offered to pay, he smiled and said: “Don’t worry, you’re my sister.” I felt joy at the outcome and support.

I realised for every sensational headline, there are countless Singaporeans being helped by a stranger, from taxi drivers who carry passengers’ heavy shopping bags to store owners who carefully keep a mobile phone that a customer left behind.

What we look for is what we perpetuate. Bad things happen at times, but that should not colour our view of the world. We cannot generalise that Singaporeans are not compassionate.

Let us not be overly critical of ourselves. We will always have to improve, but we have also come a long way. There is still a lot of goodness around us.