Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Our Tradition to Serve for Free

In difficult times, many people worked for free to improve the lot of their society and their fellowmen. They differentiate their voluntary and honorary activities from their businesses and careers. Many worked with passion, commitment and courage without concern of being paid. The dedicated ones stayed on to work on more projects. These people were performing useful functions.

In the past many were picked up and given more responsibilities especially when they showed their worth, sincerity and willingness to serve. Such people make good leaders and good role models setting good examples for others to follow.

We must continue to promote this approach for more such people to step forward and serve if Singapore is to continue to survive and prosper. History has shown that countries prosper and become great through such human sacrifices. These societies also do not forget the poor and the less fortunate.

We had many of the problems that some of the developing countries are still facing today. We were blessed that we did not fight too much among ourselves. We gained our independence without any blood shed. These circumstances attracted many able and dedicated people to step forward and serve the country. Their passion kept them going willingly and happily in the various capacities they served. Singapore capitalized on this culture and tradition of an immigrant stock that was prepared to sacrifice personal interests for the betterment of their fellowmen and their society.

The order of the day was “We were in the same boat and we sink or swim together”. “Those with money will give money; those with strength will give of their strength.” It was tough but wonderful to see so many people working together for so long and for a good cause – the survival of a nation and the betterment of the lives of its people.

Many missionaries and pioneers work better when they work for free because they are doing what they like and not just have to work. The urge to improve the lot of others less fortunate than themselves ( especially for those who have suffered similar hardship/poverty before) can be a very strong challenge to many to give of their best.

There were many such people who set good examples and are good as leaders and role models for others to follow. Let us hope this tradition will continue under a system that acknowledges the contributions of our volunteers in our fast changing society. We can vouch that many people serve better for free. Their rewards are not money but more responsibilities and work. What makes these people thrive working for free and others not? This is a good question. If we can find the right answer it can help solve many of our problems.

Engeline Lee

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