A few weeks ago, as we were walking to the car, the rubbish truck trundled into our estate to pick up its daily load.
“Eeeeeeee!!” T said in his usual loud voice, as both kids covered their noses.
“So smelly right Mama?” said H.
We got to the car and as we drove out, we saw the uncles scrambling to pick up the rubbish bins and pour their contents into the truck. We took the chance to point out and explain to the kids that it was rather insensitive of them to have said and done what they did. We talked about how tough it must be to do the uncles’ jobs and how we ought to appreciate them for doing something that no one else wanted to do. We also talked about how some of these uncles have to work very hard to support their families back home and how they must miss them very much.
Yesterday I came home from work and H showed me some notes that she made of her own accord.
“It’s to say thank you for working hard to clear our rubbish,” she declared. I think our pep talk sank in.
We went down to the bin area and waited for them this morning. The truck came trundling up punctually and the 2 uncles who were hanging on to the back of the truck were surprised to see us there. The kids ran up to them with their notes, and the uncles broke into smiles when they saw them.
There’s been a lot of debate about inequality in this country. I’m not intending to add to it. I did however take the point that Teo Yeo Yenn made in her book— that change needs to start on an individual level. Rather than just think of what the Government can do more (don’t get me wrong, I do agree that more can be done), I have been thinking about what I can do on an individual level. I suppose this is one of the baby steps I will take – to teach my children to value, honour celebrate an honest day’s work with whatever resources they have at their disposal.
We are often taught as parents, to praise effort and not just results. But somehow, we don’t extend that philosophy to the people around us. Why should we not value the effort that is put into ensuring that a job is done well, even if it’s to ensure that garbage is collected on time and efficiently every day? If we, as a collective whole start to value and respect work that is done honestly and well, instead of merely placing value on that PHD as a measure of dignity and success, perhaps we would start rewarding excellence in work rather than the effort put into cramming for an exam or chasing after the next paper qualification. It’s a long shot but perhaps, perhaps, we will start seeing changes in the mindsets that have so entrenched the state of inequality that we are in.