Sometimes in my wildest imaginations, I fantasize that if I were to disappear like Jimmy Stewart in the 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, I can see a world without me with the all-seeing eyes of a third-party observer. To imagine the lives of the people around me without me somehow prods me along in life. (That might have sounded a bit arrogant, but it’s not my intention to sound that way. I just don’t know how else to say it.)
Now, I am a resident assistant in the most unheard-of and yet, most nicknamed residential building in the National University of Singapore. The Kuok Foundation House is sometimes described as the “senior citizen’s residence” because only senior students are allowed to stay here. But, it is most commonly called “Extension block”. Whether it’s called as such because of the nearby Engineering building, I wouldn’t know because the name has long existed before I came into the residence.
Most often, I would describe KFH with a prosaic and practical description like “the tall building beside Raffles Hall and near the Engineering faculty”. Yes, most people wouldn’t know KFH unless I described it that way. Somehow the surrounding hedges and tall rain-trees obscured the pale pink building from view. This makes living in KFH like living in a secret area on campus, a feeling that I like. It’s unique to be part of the minority.
You might be wondering about the reasons for my writing a sentimental post about being a RA in KFH. After all, it’s just a small position. It’s nothing special and nothing great. Nothing fun, either. Most of the times here at KFH is practical, dull, and downright restricting. But, it gave me opportunities to do something nice for different groups of people, once in a while.
At one time, a few residents and I baked cookies for the entire residence. A task made possible only because we are a small residence with only 203 residents. I also liked that my team started the first secondhand-giveaway in our residence. And, who could have guessed that placing Goofy and Eeyore soft toys could make our lobby look much friendlier?
This job also gave me yesterday.
On Monday night, I organised a long overdue fridge cleanup. We sorted, we cleaned and we threw icky expired food. We also found lots of unlabelled food, some were still edible. Nobody wanted them, but I didn’t want to waste them either.
Then, I remembered the elderly Malay woman who cleans my floor daily. I can’t seem to remember her name though I must have asked her that before. She has high cholesterol that is the cause of her excessive weight loss in the last couple of months. From our conversations, she said that she prefers working than staying at home with her family. I suspect that all’s not well between her and her family, and that was a very sad story to listen to. Thinking of her, I told her about the food. When she was inspecting the condition of the food items, she looked happy.
When I gave her that food items, I had pangs of discomfort and later, gratefulness. I felt uncomfortable because it was such a pitiful thing to give away. A few fruits, garlic, some dubious and damp potatoes, a bottle of sesame oil, and several other odd items. I was also uncomfortable that such a simple thing was able to make her happy. It made me wonder of the hardships she must have faced in her life. But, I was grateful that I can do this for her. I’m not someone who do charitable things every day. I don’t give money to every beggar I see, and I’m ashamed to say that I let my fear for thick needles prevent me from donating blood. But, I was grateful that she liked my help. I was grateful that I could help in that small way. I was also grateful that I didn’t need to throw those food away.
All of us in the RA team came into this job with different intentions. Some had lofty ambitions of making the residence a more vibrant place. Some were enthusiastic in meeting new people. Some were more practical: They wanted the free accommodation. For myself, I am glad that my decision in choosing to be part of a community was a right one. Personally, I like to think that I made a difference.
Here, I can’t help but to quote from Hugo once more. I enjoyed listening to these simple but insightful words.