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     FrontPage Edition: Mon 20 December 2004

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Doing good deeds

Hallo everyone

A Sunday ago, my wife and I were having our breakfast in the kitchen of our 3-room HDB flat when we smelled burnt rubber in the air. I thought something might be wrong with some of our electrical connections and made a thorough check of the whole flat.
It turned out that the smell was coming from the flat directly below ours. From our master-bedroom window, we could see smoke spewing out of the flat's common toilet windows.
I ran down to the flat and knocked on its door, but there was no answer initially. I had half a mind to call for the Fire Brigade and was already readying my mobile phone for the call when some sleepy voices rang out from the flat.
Soon, the door opened and a small boy came into view. Tailing him was an older girl. Both were woken out of their dreams, obviously. I could see the whole flat was smoky, with much of the smoke coming furiously from the kitchen - from a pot on a stove. I pointed out the smoke to these chaps and they screamed for their parents who were probably still sleeping.
Their sleepy mother came out into the hall with a toddler clung onto her hips. And their father followed behind. But, he was quick to move into the kitchen to take care of the stove. It could be he was working in the Civil Defence Force.
I asked the mother if everything was alright. It appeared they could handle the problem by themselves so I took leave and went back to my flat.
If I had gone down ten minutes later, it might have been too late. The whole family of five might have succumbed to the smoke, or worse, the stove might have exploded and fire might have consumed the whole flat. And the big wooden furniture items cluttering the corridor outside the entrance to their flat might have made escape more difficult.
My wife and I usually leave our flat by mid morning but that day, she had woken late and so we were having a late breakfast. Perhaps, it was fate that might have had a hand in making sure we were around to lend a helping hand to the family below our flat.
I had done a good deed spontaneously. In the same afternoon, while I was moving around the basement level of the neighbourhood shopping centre, I came across the whole family of five. They were doing their Sunday supermarket shopping but though they saw me, none of them came up to me to thank me for what I had done.
Perhaps, it was because I was so full of myself, having thought I was their saviour, that I was flabbergasted that this was the return I was getting for being helpful. What if events had turned out otherwise earlier that morning, I had thought to myself.
Those were very selfish thoughts, indeed. Here I was, thinking of reward for a good deed. That's not the kind of behaviour that a good Samaritan should exhibit. I had done a good deed spontaneously that morning - this was good. But, in the same day, I was already expecting thanks or praise to be heaped upon me - now, that's bad.
Good deeds should be done spontaneously, without any thoughts whatsoever spared for clamouring for recognition or reward. I guess I am not such a good person after all. I am flawed.
But, all things said, whether a person doing a good deed is flawed in character or not is miniscule compared to the good deed itself. A good deed had been done that Sunday. This was an undeniable fact. Something good had happened as a result of that good deed. On hindsight, I think that selfish thoughts harboured by this good Samaritan - that's me - are only thoughts, after all. What matters is this - it is a fact people were saved in that incident.
So my point is this - what a good Samaritan may think before or after having done a good deed is really of no importance. It's the rising to the occasion - doing that good deed spontaneously - that spells hope for mankind. Man is benevolent in essence. Forgive me for sounding philosophical, but I must say this -there is hope that our flawed human race will continue to progress spiritually.
So, in this week before Christmas, I bid everyone 'Peace on Earth; Goodwill to Men'.
Merry Christmas!

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Public Holidays CHRISTMAS DAY is the next public holiday. It falls on 25 December 2004.