Life Scales & Acts Of Kindness


As some of you are aware, my company website has been revamped and the collection of staff blogs has been archived. So I’ve reproduced and updated several of my musings that attracted the most discussion among readers far and near.


August 2011

My heart leapt for joy the other day when my teenage son Caleb Brandon voluntarily carried some food for an elderly couple to their table, without any prompting from me, and without being asked. At the time, we were waiting in line behind the man, who looked to be in his seventies. When I told my boy how pleased I was with his act of kindness, he dismissed it by saying, “Mum, it was only a few metres!” “That’s not the point,” I said, “Well done, I’m proud of you!”

Just this morning, my younger boy Joshua Jared made my heart sing too. We had walked passed several foreign construction workers catching a nap during their early lunch break. “The music blasting out of their CD player sounds funny to me, Mum, but I recognise and appreciate their hard work,” he said.


cat bunny

These are the moments that make me truly thankful, for they provide glimpses of the loving and caring nature of my children. How glad I am too that hugs are still permitted, and when deemed “inconvenient”, pats on the head and a quick squeeze of the shoulders are acceptable!

A decade ago, several people more experienced in parenting urged me to exercise tough love. It goes something like this—teach your kids the realities of life early so that they’ll be better prepared to face adulthood. One man recommended telling a child who didn’t deliver top grades that if he failed to pull up his socks, he would have to get out of the house until he “woke up”. The other, a trained counsellor, deliberately locked her daughter out after she’d broken a curfew, although she did tell the girl to go to a McDonald’s near their home for “shelter” during the night.

Such advice would have resonated well with Yale Law School professor Amy Chua, who wrote the bestselling “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. Check out:,9171,2043477,00.html

The mother of two girls, now in their teens, freely shared the extremely strict parenting methods that she practised, which some have denounced as being harsh and merciless! She described the measures as being typical of Chinese families, and claimed they were highly effective in producing generations of successful children. Her revelations drew a whole gamut of reactions, mostly shock and even disgust.

Prime examples: Forcing her children to put in hours of drills and practices every day, using derogatory labels on them and withholding approval if she felt they had not met her desired standards, threatening to burn their stuffed toys if their music wasn’t played perfectly, and imposing strict controls on how they spent their leisure.

The irony is that Amy Chua’s American husband Jed Rubenfeld, also a Yale professor, stands in contrast as a relaxed, reasonable and “permissive” Westernised parent. Yet it was clear he regularly gave in to his wife’s streak of maternal ruthlessness!

As for me, I do believe in discipline, for the age-old advice in Proverbs 23:13 remains relevant even today, “Don’t fail to correct your children. You won’t kill them by being firm, and it may even save their lives.” But selfless love must always be the underlying motivation and the Bible also instructs us that “mercy triumphs over judgment” for “judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

What I really pray for and work towards is that my sons will grow up to be trustworthy and kind men who love the Lord, are full of godly wisdom, live right, show good sense and display sound judgement. Then I shall be a joyful mother who can safely and will gladly cut the apron strings.
(It’s not easy getting teenagers to pose for photos so here’s a snapshot of Mum & Sons dated 2006/07)


July 2011

A survey by the Singapore Kindness Movement found that more than 40% of Singaporeans believe they’re more gracious than their fellow residents. Only 15% of those polled rated others as being high on graciousness. The movement’s General Manager was quoted as saying that changing this attitude will be a challenge because Singaporeans are indifferent to improving their level of graciousness. The 1400 respondents were given a statement that read, “It is not possible for Singapore to become a more gracious place due to the hectic and stressed lifestyle in the country”. More than half agreed; only 4 in 10 were optimistic.

That report led me to wonder if the apparent gap between personal and communal graciousness is more a case of bad publicity than reality. It’s true that some commuters on the local Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system or pubic buses do not voluntarily give up their seats for the elderly or for pregnant women. Some cite illness or fatigue; others say they were having a nap and didn’t notice that their seat was needed. Yet based on my personal experience, I’ve seen far more people offering seats quickly and cheerfully than not. And I know that both my teenage sons belong to this kinder and more courteous group. 🙂


Survey findings like the latest data only add to the public perception, or should I call it “misperception”, that Singaporeans aren’t kind. And the comparison with other Asians like the Japanese merely seal in the general belief that locals have a long way to go in attaining true graciousness. Wouldn’t it be more helpful for the annual State of Kindness report to reflect a balanced picture of both the negative and the positive?

In Singapore, charity drives and news reports of needy families facing tragic circumstances typically attract generous donations. Perhaps we should start highlighting more examples of Good Samaritans? Just a week ago, I saw a taxi driver stopping his vehicle because he noticed an old man trying to push a bulky item across the road. He ran to the man, helped him quietly, and then got back into his vehicle to continue earning his living.


Imagine graciousness like a tangible living spirit spreading across our island, and stories of kind and courteous behaviour multiplying. Visualise a society where the members are caring and compassionate towards one another. With God’s help, every Christian’s goal is to cultivate and manifest the 9-fold fruit of the Holy Spirit—Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches”

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