Get to know neighbours to help them more

When a fire destroyed Mr Shah Rizal Abdul Razak's home and traumatised him, he was comforted by the kind responses of his neighbours (Neighbours band to help family whose Woodlands flat was destroyed by fire; ST Online, Sept 26).

It was wonderful to read that his neighbours took the initiative to do something to help.

Ms Maslindah Sain, for instance, posted photos and videos of the apartment and appealed to netizens to help "in whatever way you can".

In acting as she did, Ms Maslindah demonstrated what it means for neighbours by chance to be friends by choice. She exemplified "other-centredness", which is the very essence of kindness.

There are many opportunities for us to help our neighbours in need.

Bad things do happen to our neighbours but, more often than not, we know nothing about it. Some needs are not as obvious as a fire.

We will know only when we befriend our neighbours and build sufficient trust for them to share their problems with us.

Once the needs are made known, I am sure neighbours who are friends will step up to help.

Far too often, we lock the door to our apartments for our own peace and quiet after a long day at work.

This is understandable, as we need to recharge and re-energise. We also value our privacy.

But valuing privacy and being neighbourly are not mutually exclusive things.

We can co-create a better community spirit by building a network of friends among neighbours.

We use LinkedIn for professional networks, Facebook to connect with our friends, and WhatsApp to contact our friends and family.

The Singapore Kindness Movement has created HoodChampions, an online community platform to encourage friendly competitions between neighbours to foster friendship.

I am convinced that we are intrinsically kind. Once we know about problems, we will act. Friendship with our neighbours will increase the possibility of knowing.

William Wan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2017, with the headline 'Get to know neighbours to help them more'. Print Edition | Subscribe