One people, one nation, one funpack

If you haven't collected your SG50 Funpack, it's not too late to do so in the next few days. Don't be disheartened by the talk going round that the items in the pack are unremarkable. Instead, consider all the effort and love - yes, the love, that went into it.

The tradition of giving out goodie bags at each year's National Day Parade (NDP) began in 1991. Its aim was to give water and a snack to those attending the parade on Aug 9 or its preview shows. It has since become a fixture each year.

This year, NDP organisers decided to give out 1.2 million of the funpacks to every household, so that people can join in the parade from home. But some people grouse that the items in the bag are not useful or are too cheap. They compare what they get with friends in other constituencies, which gave additional items. They also grumble about the hassle involved in collecting the items, which requires a three-step process: look out for a card, wait for a second letter, and bring both, with identity cards (NRIC) to the collection centres. The People's Association has since simplified the process. You just need your NRIC. Those who haven't collected their funpacks are encouraged to do so by the end of August.

To be sure, the items in the SG50 funpack are simple. They are placed in a tote bag with 50 different looks designed by Singaporeans from all walks of life.

The bags contain memorabilia from yesteryear, with games such as Happy Family cards and capteh (weighted shuttlecock), and snacks such as muruku and haw flakes. There's a keepsake figurine of Singa, the mascot of the Singapore Kindness Movement. Also included: sachets of detergent, and coffee. The total cost of each funpack: $8. But the grumblers forget that what goes into these funpacks is made up of more than just the physical items.

First, is the idea behind it: to bring the cheer of the parade home to all, not just those lucky enough to watch it at the Padang and the Floating Platform. That's inclusiveness in action.

Second, this is not just any funpack. It is the SG50 Funpack, and is sure to become a collector's item in the future.

Third, consider that this was truly a One People, One Nation effort.

Think of the sweat and labour of putting 22.8 million items inside more than a million party kit bags. Nearly 1,000 people gathered every day for weeks at Kranji Camp 3 to pack up to 120,000 bags a day. There were 500 civilian volunteers, including groups from the Down Syndrome Association. They worked beside army regulars and full-time national servicemen.

Blogger XiaXue, whose real name is Wendy Cheng, was among the volunteers in the "A Funpack from Me to You" project.

She said that it is "the thought and the work that went into it, that make this jubilee souvenir meaningful". Having gone through the tedious operation, Ms Cheng said it was "no joke".

"I always thought it was mostly done by machines... The idea that your funpack was packed by actual humans - a fellow Singaporean - is not something that people realise when they receive their packs."

Then there's the ThankU50 initiative to get fellow Singaporeans to share the sweets in their funpacks and repack them into goodie bags for 500 foreign workers. The group added a thank you card and a $5 supermarket voucher for the foreign workers.

So let's not get too fixated with the freebies in the funpacks or feel disappointed they weren't big, or costly, or meaningful enough.

Instead, we should appreciate the effort and love that went into preparing a funpack that will bind the nation in celebration.

Whatever its humble contents, this is one funpack with a big heart.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2015, with the headline 'One people, one nation, one funpack'. Print Edition | Subscribe