An elderly auntie was wiping tears from her eyes when I walked into the lift this morning. I recognised her as one half of a friendly couple who always stop to smile and and play with Zoey. We run into them often, around 2 or 3 times a week. Mostly as we get into the lift together.
As I turned to her with a smile, “Good morning Auntie!”
She burst into sobs. “没有了。早上起来没有了。去喝咖啡也没有了。” (Gone. Gone in the morning when I wake up. Gone when I go and drink coffee.)
She had lost her husband suddenly last month. When the funeral wake had appeared at the void deck, our helper Siti told me she saw Auntie crying hysterically while being supported by her relatives. I had wanted to stop at the wake and offer my condolences as many neighbours had at my stepdad’s wake 8 years ago, but before I did so, the send off had happened.
So now I stood in the lift, patting Auntie on her back, as I inadequately tried to tell her that everything will be okay. All I could do was nod my head and say “我知道，不要伤心，不要哭。” (I know, don’t be sad, don’t cry.)
We reached the first floor and the door opened to 2 other neighbours waiting to get in. They saw the old Auntie and greeted her.
“你看，没人了。我自己了。” she sadly lamented in Hokkien。(Look, there is no one else. I am alone)
A middle aged neighbour replied to her, “我也是这样。不要紧，你可以的。” (I am like you too. It’s ok, you can do it.)
An older neighbour smiled at her and said, “你找我们啦!” (You can look for us!)
She seemed mildly comforted and briefly chatted with the 2 neighbours. As we got out of the lift, she turned to me and said, “Thankew ah.” before slowly making her way towards the coffee shop.
I have lived in the same estate for 18 years. There have been some people moving in and out of our area, but for many of the people in our block, they were here before we moved in. Even though I have spent long periods away from home, I can still recognise the familiar faces and I am sure they know me as well. We often greet each other in the lift and chit chat about the weather, work or children. In today’s case, each of us tried to offer small support to a grieving auntie.
While many people say that the Kampung spirit no longer exists in Singapore, I think you can still find snippets of it. It is simply a matter of remembering to smile, be kind and neighbourly. So I ask you to do one thing today. Disengage from your phones and look at the people around you. Smile and make small talk. Be kind to the people you meet. Do your part to build a better Singapore. Will you show a bit of Kampung spirit today?
SG50 Banners painted by our Kampung/Photo from Punggol South Facebook Page.