Archive for the ‘anecdote’ Category

Obituary : Teresa Hsu = Respect

December 14, 2011

Teresa Hsu’s life philosophy

“The world is my home,
all living beings are my brothers and sisters,
selfless service is my religion.”

[ From newnation ]

Thank you, Teresa Hsu, you will always be the coolest person in Singapore. Because of you, our faith in humanity shall be restored.

Singapore’s oldest woman and super volunteer Teresa Hsu has passed away.

According to an announcement  on the Heart to Heart website, Hsu departed peacefully at her home on Dec. 7 and was cremated on the same day.

Strict instructions were passed down to withhold announcements of her demise from the media.

Even in death, she was caring and considerate, insisting in a notice signed by her close friend and co-worker Sharana Rao, stating she did not want any ceremonies performed that would “cause disturbance and inconvenience to others”.

An avid yoga practitioner and vegetarian, the 113-year-old Hsu was awarded several accolades for her work, such as the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre’s Special Recognition Award (2006) and the Sporting Singapore Inspiration Award for her teaching of yoga (2004).

Her work with the needy was born out of her personal experiences growing up very poor and witnessing the plight of others who were less well-off.

In Heart to Heart with Teresa Hsu, her authorised biography published earlier this year, Hsu remembers being “very poor and very hungry” to the point that she resorted to eating grass when she was seven years old.

That experience left a lasting impression.

Up till the point when she was more than 90 years old, Hsu was at Heart to Heart, an outreach unit in Singapore, where she and her co-worker Sharana Rao, 62, look after the needs of 13 single elderly folks and four needy families in Singapore, giving them basic food and money for rent, utilities, travel and companionship.

Monetary donations are also given to help 47 visually-impaired children and teenagers in Ho Chi Minh.

Hsu was born in 1898 to a poor but caring family in Kak Chioh Swatow, a tiny village in the Guangdong province of China.

Her “wake up call”, as she described it in her recently released biography, came in 1933 in Hong Kong. She was in her mid-thirties.

Hsu came across a beggar asking for food just as she had attended a lavish company dinner.

She described this experience as giving her “great pain in my heart” as she was witnessing the suffering of a fellow human being.

Hsu decided from then on, she would donate her money to the underprivileged rather than spending it on herself.

At that time, she spent an average of only 30 cents a day for food and drink, giving away the remainder of her money.

In the 1940s, Hsu, who was in her 40s by then, joined the Friends Ambulance Unit. Her duty was to look after 20 young men and acted as their translator in China during the Second World War.

After four years, she boarded a cargo ship headed for England to study at the London Royal Free Hospital.

Her determination and desire was so impressive that she was accepted into the three-year course meant only for those aged between 17 to 25.

During the summer breaks, Hsu worked as an exchange volunteer with the International Voluntary Service for Peace in Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Norway and Denmark.

She later joined the Society of Brothers in Paraguay where she worked in a hospital giving medication, injections and attending to women’s health problems.

The Society was a haven for Jewish refugees from Hitler’s persecution. There were 2,000 residents on the grounds.

Besides her hospital work, Hsu would also deliver food to lepers living on the outskirts of the town everyday.

She also gave out medicine and food, meant for society members, to the poor and sick. This frequently got her into trouble with the Society.

Subsequently, she returned to China after eight years.

And in 1961, Hsu moved again. This time to Singapore with her mother to live with Ursula Khow, Hsu’s elder sister who was a school principal.

Hsu continued her social work in Singapore, serving first as a nonsalaried matron at Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital for about three years.

Later, she opened an old folks’ home in 1965 on a piece of land in Jalan Payoh Lai.

Khow funded the project as it cost $150,000. Called the “Home for the Aged Sick”, it started with just seven elderly residents but quickly expanded to 250.

At that time, Hsu was also caring for 26 needy families and single elderly folks through her outreach unit, Heart-to-Heart.

After 20 years at the home, Hsu retired. She turned her attention to Heart to Heart, where she spent her final days tending to the welfare service she was at for more than two decades.

Her tireless work and indomitable spirit never made retirement an option.

In the Yahoo!News interview she gave in July, Hsu stressed: “No temptation can come into my house. I have work to do, I am not diverted.”

Her message to young people today: “Go all out to help those who don’t have the basic needs. See that nobody needs to go hungry.”



Lesson from a chili seller

July 27, 2009
生活中的智慧可以被寫成書,但你不能簡單地照著書上寫的智慧去生活, 因為生活只能是鮮活而靈動的。 不要在智慧中夾雜著傲慢,不要使謙虛缺乏智慧。

[from an email]




我一天沒事,就站在一個賣辣椒婦女的三輪車旁,看她是怎樣解決這個二律背反難題的。 (more…)

父親的心事 – 郭彬郁

July 6, 2009

星洲日報/快樂星期天‧報導:張佩莉 ‧2009.06.21 










































March 7, 2009

                                          我的脚送给你                            妙妙








今年春节期间,感触于圣严法师圆寂的当儿,联想到了许哲女士这位善知识。心动不如行动,在網络上找到她的服务中心 ( Heart – to  – Heart  Service ) 的網址 (,便写电邮表明要拜访她,她的义弟(Sharana)很快就安排了见面的时间。










许哲女士对小时候不适合吃鱼肉的印象深刻。她的外婆曾经一再说:〝不吃鱼会不够强壮。〞可是偏偏她一吃鱼肉后就全身发癢,所以从小就不吃肉了。活到这大把年纪的她说:〝我不吃肉,身体还是强壮。不吃肉是不让动物有痛苦。〞她至今没’正式’ 生过病;跌倒过二次,但很快就复原了。






每个星期六,她会到牛车水去探访年老的’红头巾’,通过无数次的交谈,原是潮州籍贯的她,学会了说一口流利的广东话;’ 通行无阻’的与她们话家常。



















I wish you enough

February 3, 2009

[From an email]

Recently I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. 

Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the mother said, ‘I love you, and I wish you enough.’ 

The daughter replied, ‘Mum, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mum.’ 

They kissed and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the window where I was seated.. Standing there I could see she wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on her privacy, but she welcomed me in by asking, ‘Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?’ 

‘Yes, I have,’ I replied. ‘Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?’. 

‘I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is – the next trip back will be for my funeral,’ she said. 

‘When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough..’ May I ask what that means?’ 

She began to smile. ‘That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.’ She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and she smiled even more. ‘When we said, ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.’ Then turning toward me, she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory. 

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how Gary the day may appear. 

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more. 

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting. 

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger. 

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. 

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. 

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye. 

She then began to cry and walked away. 

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.. 

Once Upon A Time in Ethiopia

October 30, 2008

A short tale of a Chinese food-aid volunteer in Ethiopia.

Perfect dance with imperfection

August 7, 2008

[Sharing from a volunteer friend about Chinese dancers Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei. They performed ‘Hand in Hand,’ choreographed by Zhao Lirnin in a modern dance competition on CCTV 9 TV channel.]

Dear all,

This is a forwarded article/ youtube video from a friend. A touching story demonstrates how to go beyond limits of ourselves, and walking out from depression to receive lights.

Loves and Lights,

When I was in  China  last month, I saw a Chinese modern dance competition on TV. One very unique couple won one of the top prizes.  The lady, in her 30’s, was a dancer who had trained since she was a little girl.  Later in life, she lost her entire left arm in an accident and fell into a state of depression for a few years. Someone then asked her to coach a children’s dancing group.  From that point on, she realized that she could not forget dancing.  She still loved to dance and wanted to dance again.  So, she started to do some of her old routines, but, having lost her arm, she had also lost her balance. It took a while before she could even make simple turns and spins without falling.

Then she heard of a man in his 20s who had lost a leg in an accident. He had also fallen into the usual denial, depression and anger type of emotional roller coaster. But, she determined to find him (seemingly he was from a different Province) and persuade him to dance with her. He had never danced, and to ‘dance with one leg…are you joking with me?  No way!’  But, she didn’t give up, and he reluctantly agreed thinking,  ‘I have nothing else to do anyway.’

She started to teach him dancing 101. The two broke up a few times because he had no concept of using muscle, how to control his body, and knew none of the basic things about dancing.  When she became frustrated and lost patience with him, he would walk out.  Eventually, they came back together and started training seriously. They hired a choreographer to design routines for them. She would fly high (held by him) with both arms (a sleeve for an arm) flying in the air. He could bend horizontally supported by one leg with her leaning on him, etc.  In the competition, as you will see, they dance beautifully and they legitimately won the competition.  Ingenious how they incorporate the crutch into the routine!

I would like to share with you the most magnificent and touching performance I have ever seen. It is living proof that strong human spirit can conquer any physical limitations!


July 18, 2008


How To Dance In The Rain

March 5, 2008

It was a busy morning, about 8:30, when an elderly gentleman in his 80’s arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb.

He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am.

I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would be able to see him.

I saw him looking at his watch, and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound.

On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.
While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor’s appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry.

The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife.

I inquired as to her health; he told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease.

As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late.

He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.

I was surprised, and asked him, ‘And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are’?

He smiled as he patted my hand and said, ‘She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is’.

I had to hold back tears as he left; I had goose bumps on my arm, and thought, ‘That is the kind of love I want in my life’.

True love is neither physical, nor romantic. True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will be, and will not be.

The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.

‘Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, But how to dance in the rain.’

With Prayerful Heart, I Pray that I will be able to:
Learn & Move on from my Past,
Focus & Enjoy my Present,
Plan & Work for my Future,
Consult my Warm Heart, but Decide with my Cool Head,
Do all things with Passion & Good Purpose.

Don’t Get Paranoid & Stressed Up For Nothing

January 13, 2008

[A forwarded story]

Dear friends,

Thought this is good enough to be shared with you’ll. I think we could learn some lessons here but, of course, whatever you do you may still want to check with your Doctor first.

I would like to share with you an actual & sad occurrence which I hope may get you guys to ponder over what constitutes anxieties, extremities & unnecessary over reactions. A long story…but you may want to pass on to others.

One of my friend’s father, a retiree in his mid-60s, perfectly looking & behaving normal, plays his round of golf each Sunday, does a fair bit of gardening, keeps himself busy the rest of his time helping his son’s (my friend’s) little retail business & goes on tour trips every now & then…..was persuaded by his daughters’ & other well wishers to go for his medical checkup which he had last done before retirement some 10 years ago.

He didn’t see the need to do it as he was feeling perfectly OK & healthy. Of course he didn’t want to spend the money. After persistent persuasion from his family he finally gave in (his daughters agreed to foot the bill). First his blood test revealed a total cholesterol count well above the 5.2threshold (in fact close to 6). The doctor advised that he went for his stressed ECG test. Again he had to be persistently persuaded to go through that test, which he did. And it revealed some abnormality with his heart.

Now the doctor advised he went thru angiogram. He resisted again & again after much pestering he subscribed to that invasive test….which revealed 3 blockages in his heart. And the doctor advised he went thru angioplasty. This time he was adamant not to go any further. But it was like the end of the world for his family members who were all highly educated people with learned common sense. They went thru the highest mountains & deepest oceans to convince the old man to go thru angioplasty.

The surgery was successful. And he was given a clean bill of health His heart is revitalised & cleared of all blockages. After returning home from hospital, his family (especially his daughters) put him on a “healthy” diet. Strictly no meat…only vegetables and fruits, with perhaps an occasional dish of steamed fish…no oil.

The result….the poor old man became weaker, couldn’t drive his golf ball the distance he used to, got tired easily when he did his gardening, lost a lot of weight (which everyone was happy because they see him getting healthier that way), went to bed unusually early (cos he got tired sitting up late watching the Astro sports channels)…. in a nutshell he actually got weaker & probably suffering from mal-nutrition!

Hardly 2 months after the angioplasty he passed away, supposedly from heart complications. All of a sudden, a few family doctor friends were able to offer explanations. One of them had this to say… Heart blockages do not happen over-night. They are built up of time. And the body has somehow gotten used to the blockages. As long as the effects of the blockages are not life threatening, it may be best leaving them alone. Maybe it is better not to know about this. For most men at that advanced age already have blockages, some may be even worse. Not knowing it
has 1 clear advantage. There won’t be any STRESS imposed on the person. And STRESS is the killer. Some may not respond well with angioplasty.
With the heart cleared of its blockages, the blood flow will be unrestricted. And sometimes the body (even the heart may not be used to this new revitalised condition) may not know how to cope with it quick enough. Coupled with a “healthy” diet of just fruits and vegetables which are not the usual & normal intake of this person may & can do further damage. So it’s a combination of all these that could have killed this poor old man who was, just 2 months ago, a healthy bubbly man living a perfectly normal STRESS FREE retired life. Today my friend & his siblings all regretted what they had done to their father.

Moral of the story is not to be extreme & take everything in life in its stride & with moderation.

Two Choices

December 23, 2007

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: ‘When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?’

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. ‘I believe, that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.’

Then he told the following story: (more…)

Live each day to the fullest

December 17, 2007

过好每一天 — 妙妙

「我每天祈求神给我力量、智慧及清晰的思维去过好每一天。」 这是在最近一次的家访中,老朋友莉、重复告诉我们这个令亲朋好友感动及鼓午的信念。











December 10, 2007

“It’s time to embrace the ‘f’ word.”

In their search for perfection, writes  Alice Pung, may our high achievers also find a little perspective along the way.

NO TEACHER likes to hear the “f” word, particularly not during final-exam time.  That’s understandable: “failure” seems frightening when students are constantly told that they are not limited by anything, and should excel at everything. A certain paradigm of success is encouraged, and a particular type of student is hailed as the consummate model to fulfill this ideal: the High-Achiever.

The High-Achiever is the perfect student because teachers have no need to upbraid her, only to encourage. If she ever struggles, she is asked to think of her tribulations as material for a potential book about her future glory. She is labeled a perfectionist, but that is not to be considered a term of derision.

Conversely, she is taught to list it as her greatest flaw to land jobs in interviews. Yet although she may be accomplished at everything, there is one thing that the High-Achiever cannot handle: the dreaded “f” word.

As a teacher, I am taught never to tell students they’ve failed, only that they “did not pass”. Students are sensitive, we are told, and any shake to their self-esteem will shatter their desire to achieve. We are taught to teach our students how to succeed, but we never let them question why they should. Once during a school visit when I put that question up on a big overhead projector, an alarmed teacher asked whether I was telling students to fail.

But when I speak directly to high school students they are curious, because they are braver and more resourceful than our society gives them credit for. Students realise that if we don’t learn to have a good relationship with failure, but are just taught to doggedly work at success, then the terrible fear comes in. The fear of losing. The anxiety about not attaining. The conviction that your best is never good enough.

As a university pastoral care adviser, I know that often the High-Achiever is a person with severe anxiety problems. She will cry in the toilets if she gets an A instead of an A+. She will control her body in self-destructive ways, while the rampant fears in her mind are left unchecked. She may be the migrant who is studying at the library during lunchtimes because when she gets home she has to
sew for her parents. Or she may be the middle-class model from Kew who coaches the debating team and runs a marathon. But often when she comes to see me, she is not a healthy person.

When I was 17, my teachers took me to a small and secret room within the labyrinth of school corridors, so that I could re-learn how to breathe. I had also lost the ability to remember when to eat, sleep and speak.  Up until I “lost it”, society, my loved ones, and well-intentioned people continued to reward the anxiety-ridden, petty-minded and unhappy person I was because my academic achievements appeared so impressive.

But there is nothing impressive about a nervous breakdown. No one wants to know you anymore. Your friends float into the periphery. You are like a useless machine that no longer works, a computer that has run too many programs, caught a virus and crashed. Who will use you for inspiration now, when no one wants to catch your disease?  Dulled by depression, your rubber-mask of a face must not be seen, so you learn to hide yourself from the world. You are a cipher.

This is the other side of success – the risk of losing your resilience, courage and curiosity.  At 17, I lost it to such a degree that I no longer cared whether I ate, slept or survived. This doesn’t fit into a narrative of accomplishment.

This is the reason why I never focus on telling a tunnel-vision story of success to students.  Not all of us will reach such dizzying heights.  Yet all of us have experienced some degree of loneliness, loss, self-doubt and despair.  We must learn how to deal with these very real matters first and foremost. We must realise that being successful will not eliminate these natural and inevitable feelings. We must realise this before these negative feelings become insurmountable.

If you have cultivated an anxious, unhappy persona, it’s harder to be happy merely because of a change in circumstances.  In fact, any higher accomplishment will only breed more insecurities and anxieties, larger and more hideous than the last.

As our students sit their final exams, I hope they will give it their best shot and remember that what matters in the long run is not perfection, but perspective. When Sir Winston Churchill said that “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”, he had pretty good perspective. Let’s hope that this is the kind of learning that is encouraged in our students.

Alice Pung is a Melbourne lawyer and the author of Unpolished Gem.

Teaching Children about Love

December 10, 2007

Antidote to Panic

November 22, 2007

[by Pamela Bloom]

Recently I was scheduled to have the medical test known as a colonoscopy. It is an extremely invasive procedure into the most intimate parts of one’s body and therefore frightening for most people. For that reason patients are usually asked to bring someone with them so they can be accompanied home. Unfortunately, due to the timing of my procedure, I didn’t have anybody to come with me, so I was already feeling quite vulnerable from the start. On top of that, my veins are quite small and my doctor had a terrible time inserting the IV for the anesthesia. For some reason, my memory of the day is sill fresh, as if it is happening now. Strapped to the gurney and dressed only in a patient’s gown, I do everything not to squirm, but he misses… first time … second…. third. The needle is huge and the pain is excruciating. As he taps up and down my arm looking for a vein, I can feel his nervousness through his finger. Seeing me break out in a sweat, he asks if I ‘ve brought somebody with me. Tears well up in my eyes. “ That’s Okay,” he says unconvincingly., “ You’ll be fine. “ Finally, on the fifth try, the needle connects with a vein. I’m about to exhale in relief when I hear him yell to his attendant, “ Okay, hit the music. “ At this point, the loudest, most raucous, most offensive rock music blasts through the room. I’m stunned. I can’t believe I have to ask him t turn it off.

“I can’t, “ he says, strapping on his mask. “ This is the way I work. “

I’m just outraged. Strapped down like a prison, I feel the heavy – metal beat rattle my bones and I feel like I‘ve entered hell. Sweat pours down my face and I begin to shake unconditionally. Never before have I felt so trapped in a nightmare, and worse, there is absolutely no escape. In less than a minute, I will probably be unconscious. I actually feel like I am about to be executed, poison draining into my system through the IV. I’m completely on the stage of panic and the only thing I have on my side is my own mind. And then, squeezed by this physical, mental, and emotional claustrophobia, something shifts, and maybe because I am in such an intense state of suffering, I suddenly open to an awareness where I feel not just my suffering but also the suffering of umpteen billions in the world who have gone through this same kind of experience. I think of my friend Sylvan who endured thousands of IVs during the long years of his diabetes. My father and mother, my brothers, before surgeries. Millions I have never met who face trauma, fear, helplessness, every day. The room feels full of spirits. Then somewhere in me, almost as if I had been rumbling in the dark for eons looking for it, a prayer arises in my mind, one taught to me so long ago by my master: May all those who have this same kind of suffering never have to experience it again. May this suffering I am enduring release them form their agony.

And then I am out of cold. My next memory is the nurse telling me it’s over. The procedure had gone fine, and after the IV episode there is almost no pain. I get up, dress, and take the subway home by myself. The whole episode is almost like a dream. But the experience taught me something I will never ever forget — How easily distress can arrive, how helpless sentient beings are, and how entrenched prayer must be in our mind-streams so we use it when we need it.