Christmas Eve, 2023, about 2.15pm. Entrance of Tampines Mall.
I am writing this piece for the school’s website in an unconventional way. I simply want to share a real story from my heart with you, parents or anyone who is reading this, and my thoughts about it. Here it is…
A lady who is not young, maybe about 65 to 70 years old – was hunched over with a curved spine, possibly suffering from osteoporosis or some spinal degenerative condition, leading to kyphosis.
She was fiddling with her sling bag, trying to dig for something or zip it up. I could not tell as she was slightly ahead of me.
Suddenly, I heard someone speak in Hokkien dialect walking beside me.
Ai yo …tsk, tsk …don’t walk behind her.
With some disdain, she and her husband walked swiftly to the right of the hunched over lady; and quickly walked ahead as if the latter was diseased and unclean.
I was baffled, shocked, and in disbelief. It was an awful feeling. How could someone, adults for that matter, and who themselves were not young (the lady looked in her 60s), diminish another elderly adult who absolutely did nothing to antagonise her. Yes, she was slow and hunched over, but surely that wasn’t a crime or anything so disgusting?
It was a lesson and a reminder for me.
Surely, I do not want any of our girls to grow up and behave like the lady who clicked her tongue with such disdain towards another person whom she thought was less than she. Her words and tone were unkind in the context I witnessed.
Truly, truly, our girls must grow up entirely the opposite of what that lady was. They must certainly grow up with the attitude of other-centredness – always looking at someone else with eyes of compassion, always ready to feel something when they see someone struggling, someone different, someone perhaps with less; and always looking out for others.
Yes. They must feel something. It always begins with that. At least for the 6 years they are in Marymount, we must make an effort to develop that ‘feel something’ in them - for one day, they will surely walk past someone in need, someone with different needs or someone elderly; and they will not turn their heads away or worse, look at them with disdain. If you ask me, that should be characteristic of a distinctive education for our Marymount girls. And we must begin somewhere…
And we can only begin somewhere with you, parents of our girls. As significant adults whether in school or home, we have to role model other-centredness, talk about it, and develop our girls’ sense of self (who they are, what they stand for and what they are capable of) and then spring off to their sense of others.
In my first year as Principal of MCS in 2023, I had many opportunities to interact with our girls; and I saw in each and every one of them – immense potential to blossom into a self-assured, young lady poised with compassion and an attitude of other-centredness.
I sincerely hope that you will stand with me on this aspiration I have for our girls for God says,
Train up a child in the way he (she) should go;
even when he (she) is old he (she) will not depart from it.
Have a Blessed 2024!
Miss Minnie Cheong Hwee Khim