Everyone must play a part to help the disadvantaged

Many years ago, our neighbours discovered an elderly couple living in a ground floor flat in complete darkness, with only a piece of mouldy bread between them.

Their water and electricity supplies had been cut off.

This couple were reported to the relevant authorities. But instead of letting them starve before the system kicked in, neighbours rallied around them.

Some took to providing food. My father bought a hosepipe that allowed us to run water from our third-floor bathroom tap to this couple's unit.

We must be careful that discussions on subsidised hawker food do not descend into what is so prevalent these days: virtue-signalling.

Sure, we are concerned for the disadvantaged. When was the last time we, each of us, rich or poor, politician or commoner, did something practical for our neighbour or a stranger, to make his life more bearable?

If we are cooking a meal, does it take that much to cook a little bit more and take it to a neighbour who has nothing to eat?

If a community has identified vulnerable individuals needing proper nutrition regularly, would it not be possible to mobilise volunteers to cook on a rota basis?

I believe in small and minimal government that takes care only of life beyond the means of individuals, such as national defence.

But this is possible only when citizens are willing to do their bit.

Lee Siew Peng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2018, with the headline 'Everyone must play a part to help the disadvantaged'. Print Edition | Subscribe