Wong Kah Meng

A Gracious Singapore

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Contrary to popular belief, Singaporeans have what it takes to be gracious and kind.

A Gracious Singapore
CN PHOTO: Michael Chan

“The State of Graciousness in Singapore” survey was conducted from Jan. 7 to Feb. 1 this year by the Singapore Kindness Movement. This is the second time that SKM has conducted this survey and results were released recently in end-April.

How did Singaporeans fare? The sunny island nation improved by a total of three points—scoring 61 on the Graciousness Index, compared to 58 in the same survey done in 2009.

Chairman of SKM Council, Koh Poh Tiong, announced that he was pleased with the results but added that Singapore is still far from being transformed and perceived as one of the most gracious societies.

An informal poll done by City News shows that when it comes to showing kindness and being gracious, many Singaporeans feel that our fellow countrymen are still found wanting in the following “graciousness indicators”—giving up a seat for the elderly, young child or pregnant women on public transport; reservation of seats at public eating places (otherwise known as the “Territorial Tissue Issue”); road courtesy; the use of public restrooms; and treating domestic helpers and other foreign workers with respect, among others.

Some attribute ungracious qualities in individuals to the lack of good family upbringing, while others blame the pressures of a fast-paced society. Yet some claim that graciousness is within everyone, and all it takes is a little bit of encouragement and motivation to draw it out and spread it all around.

This is precisely what SKM aims to do. Believing that kindness is in everyone, the movement seeks to encourage Singaporeans to start, show and share graciousness one kind act at a time. In doing so, SKM strives toward making Singapore a gracious society, its people, kind, considerate and courteous.

To create public awareness of the movement and raise standards of thoughtful behavior and responsibility, SKM implements numerous initiatives within the community throughout the year, such as the “Kindness, Bring It On” advertisement campaign, celebrating World Kindness Day on Nov. 13 (distributing 45,000 yellow daisies island-wide), getting Singaporeans to clear their trays after their meals, and more.

Is SKM fighting a losing battle? Are Singaporeans incapable of being gracious to one another?

Thankfully, many Singaporeans are willing to band together with SKM in their initiative to make Singapore a better place. People like Santhi Singaram, a program coordinator at RAYZ, believes that Singaporeans in general desire to be more gracious and want to see more kindness displayed. If it means starting with themselves, Singaram is confident that people are willing to give it a try.

“We often get frustrated when we witness selfish behavior. But to sum up Singapore as an ungracious society is almost like looking up in the air and spitting. We have graciousness displayed all the time by common folk going about their daily lives, but these kind acts often go unnoticed. Yet ungraciousness gets all the publicity,” says Singaram.

Chan Ka Man, 26, a graphic designer from Hong Kong who has been working in Singapore for the past five years agrees and believes that there are Singaporeans out there who are considerate and willing to go the extra mile should the need arise.

“Early this year, I had lost my wallet in Suntec City Mall. The next day, I received a call from Suntec City’s security desk informing me that a shopper had found my wallet and brought it to the reception counter. The kind soul did not leave his or her name behind,” said Chan.

“That’s not the end of it,” added Chan, “I was all ready to put the phone down and rush to collect my wallet when the security proceeded to inform me that they would deliver the wallet to my office reception desk.”

Having experienced the kindness and graciousness that Singaporeans are capable of, Chan considers Singapore an ideal place to live and work in.

“If we can look beyond the faults and shortcomings of one another, spend our thoughts, emotions and actions on building on the positive qualities, accentuating the good instead of the bad, I believe Singapore can one day call itself a gracious society,” affirms Singaram.

There exists a call to Singaporeans, to let graciousness begin with us, as individuals—to repay unkindness with kindness, to smile when we enter the elevator, to spare a thought for the next person using the toilet after you, to resist the urge to speed up, but instead, slow down to allow the signaling car to filter into your lane in front of you. In doing so, we can build a gracious Singapore.

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One Response to A Gracious Singapore

  1. TS October 5, 2010 at 12:46 am

    I have been living in US for more than 26 years. I still consider myself as a Singaporean.
    Whenever I went back to Singapore I always witnessed ungracious behaviors that made me cringe. I don’t believe that it is stress that reduce people’s sense of graciousness. In New York city you see graciousness everywhere.

    I do think that by stressing so much on the academic/career/monetary/status successes Singapore breeds a generation of self-centered individualswho don’t know how to be gracious.

    What to do?

    Perhaps the media could help to expose these Ugly Singaporeas. Or even more effectively,to reward good behaviors, by doing a ‘Candid Camera’ type show spotlighting the Gracious Singaporeans.

    If everyone makes a happy resolution to do a kindly act everyday–holding door for someone, giving a smile, saying thank you, giving praise, giving up a seat,etc.. which cost nothing–Singaporeans will start to feel less stressful.

    I believe kindness breeds kindness. Pay it forward with grace. It will spread like wild fire.

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