Last week, my friend Amy commended a worker from Bangladesh for his gracious service during her visit to a local flower shop. I patronise this nursery regularly and he is always there to greet me with a smile.
At our parent's farm, our workers from India and Bangladesh are polite and respectful. The Indian has been with us for 20 years and is like a part of our family. He squirrels away most of his income for his two daughters' dowry so they could marry off well in India.
Even amongst our friends, Hakim from Bangladesh stands out as one of the more compassionate ones. He always entertains us with funny and interesting stories about life in Bangladesh. As you can see here, even our dogs adore him. Behind his youthful energy is a man with ambition. He wants to be his own boss one day.
I'm lucky to have close contact with many foreigners living here. I'm friends with Coral, the Filipina maid living downstairs. We chat almost daily while she's out walking the 3 dogs. Her kids are about the same age as mine, but she rarely sees them. On days when the going gets tough, she misses them terribly.
My best friend's maid, Nor, showed me her children's photo recently. She's mostly stoic but when she talked about her kids that day, it was the first time I had seen her face soften and light up like that. Only a mother would understand the kind of pride one has for her offsprings.
In my neighbourhood, almost every family employs a maid to tackle the household chores and take care of the kids, elderly and dogs. Just across my kitchen window, I often witness the lady owner screaming at the maid for shoddy work. There is a difference between reprimanding and yelling. Even if her work is not up to mark, she doesn't deserve to be shouted at like that, until everyone in the block could hear. It makes me mad to see that happen.
Sadly, many Singaporeans are afraid of being too nice to their workers for fear of being taken advantage of. Some turn into outright bullies. Come on, given a choice, you think your maid would put up with all that crap? Who doesn't want to be home living a comfortable life with the family?
Or could it be that Singaporeans just don't know how to show compassion and appreciation? When I was cheering and clapping for the runners at the marathon last weekend, most of the runners just ran by like I was invisible. When I take part in races, I try my best to wave back to supporters. I can understand that at the 29km mark, most were exhausted beyond words but this Chinese National was the best.