Good exercise for the heart: Reach down to lift others up

Indeed, there is no exercise better for our heart than reaching down and lifting others up, and I applaud all the 10 finalists who made a difference in others' lives, especially the winner of the Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award, Madam Noriza A. Mansor ("Good Samaritan is first Straits Times S'porean of the Year"; Feb 3).

Extraordinary people give generously in many ways, with their reliable and sincere support.

The closest thing to being cared for is to care for others. We are all in this together and we should treat one another thus.

Extraordinary Singaporeans are the people who sit silently with us when we need a moment to think, who lend us a shoulder when we need to cry and who tolerate not having all the answers but stand beside us anyway.

We do not have to tell people that we care; just showing them is good enough.

When Singaporeans pay attention to the unfortunate, they breathe new life into them by giving them the gift of their time, undivided attention and kindness.

How far we go in life depends on our willingness to be helpful to the young, respectful to the aged, tender with the hurt, supportive of the striving and tolerant of those who are weaker or stronger than the majority.

The difference between ordinary people and extraordinary people is the word "extra". So, to be a caring society, we must, whenever we can, go out of our way and do something nice and unexpected for those around us, especially those who may never be able to repay us.

Good Samaritans go out of their way to help others in dire times of need; others respond as part of their call to duty.

Those who offer themselves do so as an expression of personal love. Whatever their motivation, they show, through their actions, strength of character, unwavering determination and true courage.

Besides the good Samaritans among the 10 finalists, let us not forget others who are unsung heroes - the courageous doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers during the Sars crisis; foreman Heng Yeow Peow who died during the Nicoll Highway collapse when he went back into the tunnel to save his workers; and Singaporean Fang Fang who treks through the mountains in Yunnan, China to help mentally ill villagers.

I applaud these unsung heroes and the finalists of the Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award.

Francis Cheng