I’ve been sacrificing monday evenings with Sophia to help out at the meet-the-people’s session in my constituency. Most days I feel equal parts sad that I can only do so little for these needy people and glad that at least I’m doing all I can. The thing about technically staying in the chinatown area, is that there are a lot of old, frail and poor around. There are a lot of people who come in to say that they cannot afford a roof over their heads and is appealing for help. The sandwich class in between each somewhat arbitrary ceiling cap is the worst. Such as the family of say 5 with household income just exceeding the $1500 cap. I can see how it is virtually impossible for them to afford rental in the open market on top of utility bills, school fees, food for the family, clothes, transport and all the other necessities of a family. But yet they don’t qualify for HDB’s rental scheme. Its sad. But looking at the way Europe is going now, significantly increasing welfare aid is probably not the way to go either, especially for a country like Singapore with no natural resources. If even our human resource has a complacent mentality then where is the future of the nation?
I definitely am not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My own parents did not have a chance to be educated beyond the high school level. Its been decided from the day they leave school to step into society that they will never be able to be professionals. But they worked diligently and were prudent with their money. They gave me all that I needed and most that I wanted but by their actions they taught me to also be prudent with my spending. I attended a very ordinary preschool run by the people’s association and one of the lousiest primary school in my vicinity because we certainly did not have the means or connections to get me into a better school. Despite the odds being against us so to speak, I had almost equal opportunity to succeed in Singapore’s model. Yes, I would have had so much of a head start if my parents are able to say channel business to the firms I work for. Or if there were a family business that I can just inherit. But with my own two hands (and a brain) and my parents’ prudence I can carve a relatively bright future for me and my children. And so I always thought the model works well and the people who remain in the poverty cycle are just lazy. But the more I see, the more I realise I was wrong. Unfortunate things can happen to anyone anywhere. People could fall sick. People can have children who are sick. People can get retrenched. Nobody wants to be in a position where food and shelter is an issue.
Interestingly enough, this realisation came to me when a couple who didn’t really need help came to me. They wanted the MP to help them waive their daughter’s traffic penalty which was incurred when her daughter ferried her other daughter’s son to church without strapping the child into a car seat. They kept saying that in the MP’s term of 10 years they have never asked the MP for anything so teh MP should help them this time. That’s what the MP is there for. They self righteously pronounce that many others in Singapore don’t strap their children in as well, its unfair to penalise just their daughter who is just young and doesn’t have a child of her own so don’t know the rule etc etc. I tried to be patient while explaining to them that this is the law and it is there to protect young children. The final straw, though, was when this little girl came to me (because I’m likeable? :P) and the lady said “ask her whether she sits on a car seat, I bet she doesn’t”. I had to gently remind this lady that many of the families that come here do not own cars. This girl may not have sat on a car before. She may not even have taken a cab before. I was thinking at the back of her mind she should be grateful, and more sensitive to others. Then it struck me. I need to be grateful for all that I have too.
Here I am worrying about organic and BPA free and stylish strollers and there are these people who wonder how can they afford just shelter for their children. I must must must be grateful for all that I have, which I did build up with my own 2 hands but if you really think about it, is only possible because of God’s grace.