As I was clearing my cupboard the other day, I came across a stack of notes I wrote during a workshop many years ago. This is what I wrote “ My life purpose is to make a difference in the lives of others.”
As I reflect on my life experience, living out the purpose of making a difference does not necessary entail pursuing grand, heroic acts. I realized the little things that I do every day can make a difference to the lives of others if I had listened to their unspoken needs and acted with a magnanimous heart.
I learned this truth from one of my ex-bosses during our business trip to Beijing twenty over years ago. After a long day of work, I suggested to my boss (whom we fondly referred as Prof.) that we took a trishaw to tour around the city as it was a popular means for visitors to savor the beauty of the old Beijing city in the early 90s. As we stepped out from the hotel, I was delighted to find the same trishaw rider who took me around the city last winter. Business had been bleak for him so he offered us a city ride for 8 yuan without extra charges for carrying an additional person. It was a very good deal and I thought we were lucky to get a ride at such a low fee.
Prof, however, was concerned that the elderly man had to carry the load of two persons on a cold winter night and if 8 yuan was a fair amount to pay. He persisted and asked me what 16 yuan meant to us who were two professional from Singapore, and what it meant to that elderly man who made a living out of his skin and bones. Since there were two of us, Prof insisted paying 16 yuan for the ride instead. The elderly trishaw rider was in tears when we gave him another 4 yuan as tip at the end of the ride. The world would go on without knowing what Prof. did that night in Beijing, but it made a big difference to an elderly trishaw rider and perhaps his family. I was touched and inspired by Prof’s magnanimity.
Mr. George Yeo said it so well at his recent speech, “ I try wherever I am to be of some use to people around me. And that will give me enormous satisfaction. We are only for a brief period what we are, from dust return to dust. During the period when we are whole, let the world remember us for our contributions, and not wish that we have not existed. So whether we do big things or small things, it doesn’t matter, make a difference, and make it a better world.”