Gift Distribution at Chai Chee
“The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”
― Gordon B. Hinckley
This quote reflects the exact feeling I had today during a gift distribution drive at the Chai Chee district.
As part of a social services out reach program, Christ Methodist Church has collaborated with Kampong Chai Chee Social Team for a day of gift distribution to the less fortunate residents located at Chai Chee Avenue.
The Singapore government has created various clusters around the country to provide housing for the less fortunate or the financially challenged citizens. These are one room flats with very basic necessities. A one room flat is basically a hall, kitchen and a toilet. There are no other rooms in the flat and residents would sleep in the hall or have make-shift partitions to segregate a bedroom and a living room.
My wife and I have been volunteering for such activities since we got married 18 years ago and when this opportunity came up, we jumped at it.
All volunteers were required to wear a red top on the day, probably for easy identification. As I walked towards the assembly point, a warm feeling came upon my heart…There was a sea of red gathered, all ready to help. It was heart-warming for me because I was not expecting many to turn up since it was 10am on a Saturday morning, right at the heart of Christmas, New Year and the school holidays. But yet, in a materialistic society we live in, there are so many willing to take that little time and effort to give to the less fortunate.
After the organisers briefed us on the dos and don’ts, dished out the schedules and the different floors and units we had to visit, it was time to take all the goody bags and start visiting the families.
In total, we had to cover 3 floors with 24 units on each floor. As we started our visiting, we realised that many of the families were not home, but we did manage to visit 6 families in total.
That was where I had a glimpse of the living conditions and the size of the flats. More importantly, it gave me a glimpse of the many issues and challenges these families are facing.
One thing a lot of Singaporeans sadly do not realise, especially the millennials is that even in a vibrant, wealthy city like Singapore, there are less fortunate people that have challenges beyond the first world problems that we are complaining about half the time.
Why is traffic so bad during the Standard Chartered Marathon?
Why are there no parking around here?
Why is the restaurant so crowded and we have to wait so long?
I do not know what to get for my friends for Christmas?
My desk in my office is so small?
My workplace is so far away, I need to drive 45 minutes to get to he office?
I do not have the right kind of shoes to go with my outfit!
The list goes on. And as I spoke to the families, I am sure everyone of them would have given anything to have these first world problems, rather than having to think when would their next meal be.
There is one similarity though with every family – their eyes lit up when we greeted them. Not because we had gifts, but because we visited them. Because our presence meant that they are not forgotten.
They speak with positivity and sincerity about their challenges and how they overcame them. They know we are there only for a day but yet they welcome us with a very friendly and thankful disposition rather than an attitude of entitlement.
In the present society where everyone speaks with an intention, this is truly refreshing and real.
There was a lady that we spoke to which struck a cord with me to a question of whether there is anything else she needs help in, she replied with a smile – “We have enough. Thank you”
I now understand the true meaning of a french phrase – “Quand on a pas ce que l’on aime, il faut aimer ce que l’on a” – When one doesn’t have the things that one loves, one must love what one has.
It reflects the saying, “Want what you have and you’ll have what you want,” which is to say that you must be content with what you currently hold, however little it may be.
Which brings me back to the quote at the beginning of my blog – “He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”
I truly have gained more than the people whom I have served today. They see and talk with us for 10 to 15 minutes, but their sharing, their positivity and their realness, has been etched in me. I know it will help me in many challenges in future that I will inevitably face. But thinking back to them and realising how blessed I am with what I have, this has to be a great gift these families has left for me.