On Friday evening, my hubby and I attended a networking session for a new initiative called 'Let's Makan'
. We had been erm...kindly invited by the very affable Dr William Wan, the General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement
. The whole idea is to get like-minded people together to become 'connectors' to seed little groups around the country with the aim of reviving the 'kampung' spirit that has largely been lost through modernisation, urbanisation and the fact that busy lifestyles nowadays mean neighbours often don't do more than say "Hi" and "Bye", if they even interact at all. And what better way to begin bonding but over a simple 'makan' session? Especially considering how most Singaporeans are passionate about food.
So the evening began with a group of about 100 strangers getting to know each other over a lovely dinner, and then Dr Wan and his colleagues shared how each of us could then pass that forward in our own immediate neighbourhoods, in the hopes that the movement would keep rippling across the island. As Dr Wan explained, it is natural for strangers to jump to conclusions, stereotype and pre-judge one another, despite being neighbours, but we don't do that with friends so much.
For example, let's say a neighbour upstairs plays music loudly late at night. And perhaps they are of a different ethnic background from us. Some of us might tolerate it, but then form prejudices against "those kind of people". Others might choose to complain to our MP, call the police, even bang on our ceiling with a bamboo pole, or kick up a quarrel. If, on the other hand, we were friends with the same neighbours, we might simply give them a call and say, "Hey man, having a party without me? The music so happening ah!" And they would probably go, "Oh shit, sorry, sorry! Didn't realise how late it is!" We share a few laughs and no hard feelings the next day.
Makes sense, right? So yeah, in light of the heightened intolerance and growing xenophobia lately, the Singapore Kindness Movement hopes that the 'Let's Makan' initiative can make a difference. After all, change begins at home.
What I personally found to be the coolest part of the evening? Everyone who attended came from different walks of life. Different races, different religions, different interests, different career paths, different neighbourhoods. But they were there because they all share a similar outlook, despise xenophobia, and want to make a difference. These were all cheerful people with good hearts, willing to welcome and even initiate change with open arms. Or at least were interested in learning more about it. And it was wonderful - the mood in the room was jovial and enthusiastic, and everyone had a smile for everyone else.