Can We Be Kind Outside of Volunteering?

RĆ©mi Walle/Unsplash
RĆ©mi Walle/Unsplash

World Kindness Day falls on 13 November every year. Commemorated since 1998, it was launched by The World Kindness Movement at a 1997 Tokyo conference of organisations dedicated to promote kindness around the world.

According to the movement, the purpose of World Kindness Day is to ā€œto highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.ā€

In Singapore, in addition to observing World Kindness Day yearly, the Singapore Kindness Movement has also inaugurated Kindness Day SG on 22 May since 2013. It is ā€œan occasion for Singaporeans to come together in celebration of kindness and graciousnessā€, and to ā€œinspire one another and transform our society into a nation of kindnessā€.

Indeed, kindness is a virtue that should be embedded in the fabric of every society, and this year calls for a greater impetus for us to invoke kindness in all aspects of our lives as we battle the pandemic as a nation.

Dealing with a worldwide outbreak of a virus isnā€™t easy; itā€™s bound to take a toll on all of us, in one way another. Some of us find ourselves struggling with bread and butter issues, while others are beset with mental health battles that arise from being cooped up at home. No matter what our struggles are, itā€™s safe to say that the pandemic has definitely taken a toll on our collective wellbeing as a nation.

Are Singaporeans only capable of bad behaviour?

Sure, weā€™ve seen the ugly side of Singaporeans during the circuit breaker ā€” from hoarding groceries, blatantly violating safety regulations, protesting the implementation of the lockdown, and even a surge of xenophobia when the news of the virus outbreak in the migrant worker dormitories was first announced.

These acts aside, thankfully, the circuit breaker also shone light on another side of Singaporeans, many of whom stood up to lend a helping hand to those in need.

In particular, many stories have emerged about Singaporeans volunteering in various capacities, such as preparing and delivering meals for the migrant workers who were isolated in their dormitories, visiting the elderly who were living alone, and helping to man the national care hotline. Some also donated their solidarity payment to those in need.

What comes next?

While it is heartening to see our fellow countrymen come together for a good cause, can there be more to it? When we volunteer for a specific cause or purpose, we know that there is a specific task that needs to be done to achieve an end goal. As such, itā€™s easy for us to commit ourselves to accomplishing those tasks. Because weā€™re doing a good deed, thereā€™s also a tendency for us to act in a certain way.

Donā€™t get me wrong, Iā€™m not saying that volunteering is bad (because it most definitely isnā€™t), but how can we, as a nation, look into perpetuating these good behaviours as we go about our daily lives, so that we become more gracious as a society?

Dr William Wan: Redefining and channeling VUCA

Dr William Wan, General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, wrote that in order to ensure that graciousness becomes a value that is embedded in our society, itā€™s essential to redefine what VUCA is.

VUCA originally stood for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous ā€” a concise description of the world that we inhabit today, especially as we are still in the midst of battling a pandemic.

In his commentary published on Channel News Asia, Dr Wan recommended that we redefine VUCA as Vigilant, United, Compassionate and Adaptable as a guide for us collectively to thrive as we encounter a new normal.

To summarise, this means:

  • Being Vigilant: practising social responsibility by keeping ourselves and our public spaces clean, to protect ourselves and our loved ones
  • Being United (as a nation): tackling challenges brought about COVID together, instead of being divisive
  • Being Compassionate: showing care and concern for each other, and helping others in need when possible
  • Being Adaptable: embracing changes in the way we work, study and even parent

Kindness should not be limited to volunteering

To put things into perspective, kindness, altruism and graciousness should not only be displayed when weā€™re in a structured environment where we are required to do good (e.g., while volunteering). Letā€™s all remember that weā€™re all having a hard time, in one way or another (itā€™s a global pandemic, after all) ā€” so letā€™s be nice to each other all year around.


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