TGIF: Letters To:

TGIF

In the previous entry, you see ‘Letters From:‘; letters addressed to me by friends and loved ones. However, a person who receives and does not give [back] is like a dead sea – so rich in minerals, yet no life can exist there – with only inputs without outputs. It takes two hands to clap, and it takes both on either side to maintain a relationship. Letters are one of the most practical ways to do so. Two-penny letters (Hanson, Kinfolk Volume Three, p102-103) work very well as opposed to the notion that one should only write ‘proper’, lengthy letters. A simple “Hey, love your dress!” or “Meet for coffee soon, old sport.” can be so heartfelt in letting the addressee know that you are thinking of them.

I have written and sent out much letters, post cards, post-its, handmade and DIY cards to friends and loved ones through the years but two-penny letters is a quick solution with the same intent and outcome [though results vary depending on effort spent la]. One doesn’t have to fret over filling in the lines of the letter with ‘substantial’ content too. Simplicity is the way of life. There’s also lesser pressure and expectation added to the addressee; they are not forced to write something back.

We’ve all received that out-of-the-blue note from a friend; the joy and comfort that these little check-ins bring us is incredible considering the simplicity and scale of the act. It doesn’t take much time or effort to jot down a thinking-of-you note to a friend that will change their day.
Killeen Hanson (Kinfolk Volume Three)

A follow-up to Kinfolk‘s HOW TO BE NEIGHBORLY: CHECKING IN article, here‘s how you can ‘check in’ in someone else’s lives without being too over the top. And it is inexpensive too. Scattered all around hot-spots in Singapore are the Zo card racks constantly topped up and replenished with new Zo [post] cards on a regular basis. Pick up a few with interesting themes, colors, concepts, photography, etc. Bring them home, use a trusty pen to write on the blank areas of the card, give them by hand or by post whichever is preferred. For my foreign friends, you can collect all those free post cards from your country’s attractions and hot-spots (museums, tourist centers, etc), they are good for writing too.

Knowledge is power, now that you know how and what to do, send out your two-penny letters [or Zo cards]!

P.S. I would love to see your two-penny letters. Please feel free to tag me on your blogs or social media platforms, or drop me a hyperlink to your new media platforms under the comments section of this entry.

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Letters From:

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I was clearing my room during the long weekends the other day and coincidentally came across a treasure trove of stuff all hidden within the confines of my little room. Amongst those treasures were letters I have collected and kept for the past eight years. Through the years, I’ve received a number of letters from friends and loved ones.

While there are many ways to express love and gratitude, it is my belief that giving letters is one of the most sincere ways to do so. Letters [may] require spending; one needs to buy a nicely designed card, letter, postcard [and possibly a nice envelope to go along with it. Senders who designed their own cards may incur overheads such as acquiring markers and card design materials from DYI art marts. Letters require effort; senders may design the cards themselves or, sender needs to pick a card or letter style that he or she believes suits the receiver of the letter, next the sender has to write [or type] the words out to fill the intentional void of the letter. Letters require thoughtfulness; you don’t scribble any-old-how on the letter face just to fill the pages. The writer often puts himself in the person’s predicament [or victorious moment] and pens something related to that and ending off with his blessings or encouragement. Letters definitely require time; the sender has to sacrifice previous time off other priorities of his life to fill in the words.

The benefits of receiving a physical letter far outweigh many other form of blessings. A letter is eternal; sure the letter might degenerate a little, the words may fade a little, but keep it stored in a cool, moist-free place and this letter can last decades. A letter is ‘evergreen’. There’s a saying by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel” and letters fulfill that role just right. Even if you have moved on with life, rereading those letters again invoke a sense of warmth and closeness the reader shared with the sender. When opened, the ‘encapsulated’ heartfelt words, encouragement and blessing rises up into the air like perfume, bringing fragrance and joy to one’s soul.

I thank God that I am important enough for some to have invested time, effort and money on letters addressed to me. Letters given to me when I transferred away from my first and second cell group, letters given to me when I finally graduated from my second attempt at O levels, letters given to me when I was baptized, letters given to me during my birthdays, letters given to me by dear friends, letters given to me by my bible study students, letters given to me during festive seasons and such. I ride on the encouragement from those letters.

Though those times are now past and gone, I will never forget how important those words were to me. To those who were involved in any of these letters, thank you. Your kind words have an eternal alleviating effect on me. Even as I read them now, they never fail to put a smile on my face. I thank God for all of your letters and friendship.

See if you can spot your own letters!

P.S. I don’t normally reveal contents of letters online for obvious reasons but not doing so this time will do injustice to those who had been such a blessing to me.

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Letter from my first cell group members. I hope that I have grown since then.

 

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Thank you G for being so teachable. May you shine brighter and make a bigger impact than me in the KOG.

 

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Thanks A, I really treasured those times spent with W385.. Thank you for being a mentor to me in so many ways.

 

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Thank you V for being there with me in spirit during this important day.

 

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Thank you E for being such a blessing to me.

 

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S, I appreciate your friendship. Keep in touch.

 

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Y, glad to have played a part in your life. You have gone so far, getting a job and academic certificate, and even graduating from SOT! I am so proud of you.

Familiar Stranger (Part 2)

Hongik SubwayPHOTO: Reuel Eugene Tay – Entrance of Hongik University Subway, Seoul, South Korea

 

Continuing from where I left off earlier, I recently remembered two kids I used to play with at a time when I attend a child care centre after school. It was during my primary school years. Strange enough, I still remember their names. The two girls (who are also sisters) were Shauna and Samantha.

They joined the centre slightly later than me, both wore spectacles, both had short hair. They have a dad whose head is fully laden with white hair. Shauna was probably around my age and a thinker too, while Samantha was younger but had one of the brightest smiles i can register from when my memory could record. We would play with the other kids, do a little sport, have our meals together, fall asleep together sometimes (don’t entertain silly thoughts please).

Their dad would fetch them from the centre every evening. I remembered asking them questions as to why their dad had white hair so early in his days. (Actually I think its also because their dad is not as young as typical dads la) They replied innocently that he might be quite stressed at work, and that he is a police superintendent or something like that.

Childhood days were the best days to make friends. We could be friends just at the snap of the finger. I wonder how are they now? How is their dad? How do they look like? Does Shauna have a boyfriend now? Does Samantha still have that sunshine smile?

Maybe I bumped into them before but just don’t notice nor recognize them anymore and they of me. Maybe we had a ‘向左走·向右走’ moment. We all had friends from when we were in pre-school and primary school, co-curricular activities, school camp days. We probably laughed together, cried together, possibly fought and/or quarreled with each other before. But we were too young to remember it all. Perhaps we walked past such a friend on the streets just yesterday, but we no longer remember. Perhaps you can call that, familiar stranger.

I hope to meet them again one day though, even though we probably have zero conversation topic.

 

P.S. I have no idea why I still remember much details of this past.

Familiar Stranger

IMG_4882PHOTO: Reuel Eugene Tay (The Streets of Hongdae, Seoul, South Korea)

 

While sojourning on earth in this short period-of-a-life that we have, have you ever have those moments where you see distinct faces that seem to etch into your mind? Days like this, I walk down a street minding my own business but see a face that seemed to strike a chord in my mind, or leave a deep impression, or so I think. Some may induce deja-vu, [Some are really pretty,] some gives a very homely, familiar feeling as though you have known them for a long time, but as a matter of factly have never met him or her before.

But the queer thing is, these faces never stay in our heads as long as we believe them to, and we forget them soon after.

But life is so interesting. This stranger one cross paths with every now and then – may become a close friend in the future, that stranger over there may become one’s life partner in the future. Who knows what the future beckons?

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And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’
– Matthew 20:11-15

Being bred and brought up in Singapore, we soak into an environment where competition brings much needed progress and betterment to the country economically speaking.

But sometimes competitiveness gets too into our heads that we become bitter over other people’s success, or favor and goodwill that is bestowed to others. “Why is she getting the promotion when both of us are doing the same job?” “Why is he getting more recognition than me?”

Are our eyes evil that we cannot accept one being good to another? Take the high road, be genuinely happy for other’s success and favor. This will do one’s heart good, win more friends and eventually attract favor and goodwill too.

Short Story: The Oak Tree And The Ants

imagePHOTO: Reuel Eugene Tay

 

There was a particular oak tree that sat on the hill of a countryside hidden from the reaches of the city. It was an ordinary oak tree yet it was also not just any other oak tree. Sturdy and beautifully mahogany colored bark, strong branch-of-an-arm that stretched out toward the heavens and, luscious healthy green leaves that decorate the branches those branches make this oak tree a beautiful sight to behold.

Playing companion to couples-in-love and kids on their Sunday family days and having acted as the backdrop for more than a dozen wedding photo shoots, the oak tree was in contentment. “With my coat of green, yellow and red I’ve shaded the young and old, the poor and the rich through the seasons unfailing. Through thunderstorms and seasonal winds that threaten to uproot me, I have lasted and stand firm. I’ve indeed lived a full life.. My life is complete..!” thought the good ol’ tree to himself.

Yet for years, the good ol’ tree could not tolerate one – the ants whom have made their home by his roots, climbing up his back (and front) as they have pleased. It was like a thorn in the flesh to the good ol’ tree, an itch he cannot relieve.

One fine day, with one mighty swing of his limps and rustle of his coat he finally broke with silence with authority and gusto, “I want you to depart from me now!” The ants froze in their tracks for a moment before orderly making their way towards the distant horizon. The good ol’ tree was pleased. After all, it went much smoother than expected. For a while, the tree was contented, being left alone felt like a crumb stuck in the teeth for a good period of time finally removed. That feeling was surreal, and the good ol’ tree thought things could only look brighter. Or so he thought.

No sooner than a week after the ants’ departure, the good ol’ tree became sick. Without the care of the ants, disease was spreading across his body like wildfire. The once beautiful mahogany of a bark was coming apart bit by bit, his coat was like the thinning hair of an old man. No longer attractive, the people stopped coming, children stopped playing by his side, the good ol’ tree was dying physically and emotionally, and now truly left.. alone.

It was then that the good ol’ tree realized his folly, issuing the ants the great exodus was his undoing. A threatening rainstorm hit the good ol’ tree hard that night, only this time he didn’t seem to be able to make it through the night. Despondent, the tree howled with the strong winds “Please come back my friends” while the winds slowly ate away at what was left of his previously beautiful coat of old.

The following morning, the good ol’ tree awoken from his slumber, astonished that he made it to the night, astonished that he actually felt a little better. That familiar unquenchable itch has returned, only this time the tree was glad.

There are people that will get on our backs like a thorn in the flesh or a detestable itch. Yet some of them are those who truly cared, some who helped us become who we are and some whom our destinies are intertwined with.