Letters of Life

Sharing, Not Just Giving

Breakfast with dialysis patients and their caregivers.

A morning spent with my friend, Dr Tan Lai Yong, a former missionary who is now a resident fellow at the local university, always sets me thinking.

Lai Yong recently returned to Singapore for good after 14 years doing humanitarian work in Kunming, China, and remains deeply involved in volunteerism and community service. Whether it is taking 30 Bangladeshi construction workers to a public swimming pool to enjoy a morning in the water (something I take for granted), or hosting a barbecue for 20 Filipino maids on a Sunday afternoon, Lai Yong plans and coordinates outreach events like these with enviable ease and compassion.

Today, he talked about how students living in the university dorms can share what they have with the less fortunate without spending anything extra.

Take for instance, pre-paid meal cards at the dining hall. Students pay for three daily meals at the cafeteria, but skipping meals is a staple of campus life. Since these meal plans are already paid for, why not share the excess meals stored in your meal card by inviting the less forutnate to join you for a meal on campus?

This novel idea came from his team of associates and students engaged in community service. In fact, the community engagement class did this a few weeks ago for Children’s Day. They connected with a primary school whose pupils came from low-income families. The kids came to UTown for breakfast with the undergrads. To inspire the kids, a few of these undergrads shared personal stories of the obstacles they overcame just to be in university. It was a meaningful event, and everyone had a good time.

This morning, I joined the undergrads and their mentors who planned breakfast with 15 dialysis patients and their caregivers. After they arrived, we took them on a short tour of the university’s UTown campus, past dormitories in elegant towers, past landscaped centercourts and walkways lined with palm trees.

I chatted with a few of them, learning about their weekly routine which centered around dialysis treatment and careful monitoring of their condition. I spoke a little with the social worker at the dialysis center, the physiotherapist, and the wife of a man with an amputated leg in a wheelchair who smiled and chatted with the group.

It was, I think, one of the loveliest mornings I’ve had this year. And “share”, a word I’ve known since age four, has just been given a broader, more excellent meaning.

I hope I will apply it well.

It occurred to me that when we think of ways to share our excess, giving becomes just a matter of time, not money. What has been your experience of sharing in the community? Do leave a reply!

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