A tapestry of shared values

"There's a spirit in the air, it's a feeling we all share."

The lyrics of popular National Day song Count On Me Singapore ring in my mind whenever Aug 9 comes around and the country marks its independence since 1965.

But those words may conjure up the impression, especially to the young, that the Singapore spirit is a mere state of feeling.

It is more than that.

If not, there would not have been numerous attempts over the years by politicians, artists and scholars to define the Singapore spirit, just as they have dissected other concepts like the Singapore identity and the Singapore soul.

Most definitions of the Singapore spirit revolve around notions of perseverance, self-determination and resilience. Or about how this little red dot has punched above its weight at times, either in contributing to regional stability or in lending a hand to neighbours in need.

For me, the Singapore spirit is also defined by a tapestry of shared values - like compassion and lifelong learning - among people who live them daily.

I witnessed this during my five years reporting from Beijing for this paper, seeing how fellow Singaporeans would selflessly help newcomers get used to a different way of life, succeed in launching enterprises, or lend a hand to those who were ill or in legal trouble.

It was not just the big things. We would also go on trips together, attend seminars and talks to learn something new, and even keep fit together, playing sports such as badminton.

The Singapore spirit is alive when Singaporeans live and uphold shared values both here and overseas.

For this reason, we have fleshed out the Singapore spirit through the stories of its people: the adventurers, good neighbours, enterprising individuals, sportsmen, lifelong learners and the kind souls.

As we mark another National Day, we also celebrate those who show the Singapore spirit is far more than a feeling.

Apart from reading the stories, you can also test your knowledge of Singapore trivia and history with mini quizzes; answers are revealed at the end of the supplement.

Happy National Day, Singapore!

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'A tapestry of shared values'. Print Edition | Subscribe