By Myko Philip (15A01B)
I distinctly remember one of the most touching scenes in Evan Almighty was where God, played by Morgan Freeman, talked about random acts of kindness to Evan Baxter whilst feeding his dog water. It’s a well-known trope in a generic feel-good movie, and something you’d not expect in real life.
As I write this, it is around 7.40 am on the last Friday of term before the June holidays and the skies are inauspiciously grey. For the first time in a long time, I arrived at the Marymount gate when it was still dark. I’d messed up my sleep cycle again and slept at 8pm only to wake up at midnight distressed and flustered. I had promised myself I’d do my International History term paper as soon as I could but ended up spending most of my afternoon reading Michael J. Sandel’s Justice and the early evening at a meeting. I stayed up from midnight and decided to get to school early in a desperate bid to get an hour of sleep before work. But this is what greeted me at 6:43am in the school canteen:
I had to take a slight detour as it was drizzling, so I couldn’t walk straight across the 2nd field to get to Block J. I walked past the canteen and encountered the intriguing scene. Rafflesians whose regular pre-assembly haunt is the canteen were treated to a lovely surprise this morning when they saw candies arranged in fresh and folded ranks on nearly every table. Each candy was placed equidistant from each other with notes facing alternating directions. It was not at all slipshod, and very painstakingly done. And although the quotes repeated after a while, the variety was nonetheless considerable. More impressive than that was the fact that each message was reproduced nearly identically by hand. Each note was signed off in impeccable font-handwriting with #loveothers2014.
Reminiscent of the Snack Attack initiative done by Council’s Welfare Department where free Milo and coffee was given out before morning assembly, this enigmatic swan song to 2014’s first semester was not their doing. Many Rafflesians racked their brains conjecturing who might have been this veritable candy-distributing Santa, though his or her identity remains anonymous. Cheng Yi Ern of 15S03B said he found a bag full of candies with the same hashtag innocuously lying in LT1 a few days earlier, and even caught the person behind this laying out the candy. He was not privy to any further details. Most people hypothesized that Council was behind it, much as it was Snack Attack. Phionna Teo, the 34th Council Welfare Head, said the candies were not distributed by the Welfare Department, but is “glad that someone has taken the effort to do something like this without any official reason”. Cursory searches on the internet point towards the Heart of God Church and its congregation as behind the mass candy giveaway.
Echoing Phionna’s sentiments, Lee Vint Seng of 15S03H agreed that it’s not important who’s behind it so much as the thought and effort behind it that counts. It’s fairly difficult to move your stereotypical cynical JC student, and the prevalent mood that morning was life goes on. That is not to say Rafflesians were not appreciative of the gesture, so much as they smiled a little but quickly went back to their laptops and notes. Leeyon Lim of 15S03N remarked that his initial response was the mental equivalent of an eye-roll. “Oh no, not again…” he said, before quickly qualifying it as “a sweet gesture still. I’m not particularly moved by the quotes or candies or anything, it’s the holidays soon so I’m hyped up already. It was more of an ‘Mm, okay’ sort of thing more than grand overwhelming emotion, but still it’s cool.” Bryan Ong of 15A01D expressed similar thoughts with regard to the quotes: “they’re not particularly moving in and of themselves. What’s moving is the fact that someone took the trouble to write them. Even a simple ‘Hi’ would have made the same difference; so it’s not the quote, but the thought. And it’s sincere, I am grateful.” On being asked whether the free candies and notes inspired them to do something similar for their friends, most people said they weren’t tempted to try something on a similar scale, but that they’d do something within their own circles to pass on the love. Phionna has also said that the Welfare Department is cooking something up, though she did not reveal when this would be rolled out.
Singapore is no stranger to such events. On the same day, STOMP posted pictures of letterboxes strewn with notes under the same #loveothers14 banner, which have also appeared in libraries and colleges all over Singapore. Before this, Nanyang Junior College had an incident where a mystery girl bought drinks with intricately designed notes for staff and students. This was then passed forward when teachers bought $850 worth of drinks for the entire school.
It is perhaps an appropriate close to Appreciation Week 2014, for which Raffles Press collaborated with The Humanz Initiative to shed some light on some of the quiet figures in our school who matter a lot to us. As for myself, I concur with the general sentiment that permeated the canteen that morning: life goes on. Despite that, I am nevertheless moved by this person’s initiative and, more than that, his concern for others underlain by courage. It takes a measure of bravery to break out of the inanities of our self-interested lives with such a public display. Anonymity here is no symptom of cowardice, only perhaps a wish for the act, not the actor, to be taken into consideration. Understated is the fortitude it takes to show someone that you care. It is hard enough to tell your parents when they are stressed that it will be all okay. If you see a friend feeling down, sometimes all you can say is a brief “stay strong” before you walk away for fear of intruding his or her solitude. To tell the school that they can keep calm and carry on is no mean feat, and is worthy of our appreciation and commendation.
And what more the fact that this person cannot possibly know every single Rafflesian. Critics might say the messages are hence impersonal and insincere, but I think otherwise: the sincerity is not in the words but in the actions, and the fact that they were written for strangers does not take away from it, but adds to it. The title of the article is an inversion of a Hamlet quote, and I think it apt: someone not exactly kin who has done something a little more than kind. And while not rousing overwhelming feelings of compassion and concern for others, it has reminded us that random acts of kindness need not be confined to scripted feel-good movies starring Morgan Freeman. Forgoing sleep to witness this was not a disappointment. To this unknown soldier, I salute you.