Char, The Sweetest of Sweetest

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Dalai Lama said that we should be kind whenever possible.
You’ve showed me that it is always possible.


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Everything was perfect that day — from the sky to the flowers to the grass and to my hair 😛 (some days are just ‘bedhead days’ and I’m glad that that day wasn’t another one of those ‘bedhead days’). It was as if the day knew to prepare itself for when I would finally meet You again.

We were to meet each other at Turf City that day — a place where no MRT station or bus stop can be found in the vicinity of the compound (the nearest being at least a 15- to 20-minute walk away), so I found myself walking along Turf Club Road under the sweltering sweltering heat. No joke, I felt like my exposed skin was sizzling. The sensation strangely reminded me a lot about my days as a Canoeist in MacRitchie. I remember how once, I saw what looked like smoke rising from my skin!

Fast forward to the day I met Char, as I was walking along Turf Club Road that afternoon, I was intrigued by cheery barking in the distance which led me to spotting a little dog daycare centre (You could click the middle sphere above to get an enlarged view of what I saw) nestled in the middle of a nest of trees.

The dogs were roaming the compound in play or engaged in dog intrigue, snorting happily, tails wagging wildly. Some were chasing balls and some were enjoying a dip in the pool, while others were enjoying a mid-day snack. One dog was even sprawled across the lap of a caretaker, sleeping ever so soundly. I could tell that they were happy where they were. 🙂

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Meet Charlotte.

We were making our way to Pasarbella when we spotted a child getting his haircut in a very very unique set-up: He was sat in one of those one-dollar-coin-ride-vehicles that You’d easily spot in shopping malls with a television screening a cartoon show set up in front of him while the ends of his head of hair was being snipped off by a hairdresser.

A little look around led me to realising that this barber was set up especially for young children — all of the tots getting their hair cut were sat in those one-dollar-coin-ride-vehicles, with TV screens in front of them and a hairdresser snipping their hair. It was the cutest scene ever! :’) I really wanted a shot of it but was a little shy about it, especially since all of the toddlers’ parents were standing beside their children, so Char suggested the cheekiest thing, “I’ll stand here and You could pretend to take a picture of me, when really, You’re taking a picture of them.”

I ended up including Char in the shot because how could I not? She’s got a beautiful smile that could brighten any picture (above).

When life blesses You with lemons, make lemonade. When life blesses You with a friend like Char, treasure the friendship with all Your might. As Marcel Proust once said, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

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We didn’t walk very far into Pasarbella before we settled for a sit-down chat along this dark-but-brimming-with-cool-vibes alley that led to a little, quaint cheese shop. There were little fairy lights hanging here and there and everywhere, vintage shots of an ancient-looking cheese factory plastered all over the walls beside us and the ceiling above us and a very cheery buzz of the nearby lunchtime crowd.

Char and I subsequently spent the next two hours or so talking about everything in our hearts, in our heads and under the sun. It’s such a breeze to connect with her. The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words. Of course, with that said, we didn’t have that many silences between us… there was just so much to talk about after almost three quarters of a year apart.

Among the many things we connected over, she shared with me a lovely story that I’d like to share with You too. You may have heard this one, but I find that it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it every once in a while.

I unfortunately can’t seem to recall the details of the story other than its moral, but thankfully, a little googling led me to the very story.

Here it is:

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

Adapted from The Star Throwerby Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

We all have the opportunity to help create positive change, but if You’re like me, you sometimes find yourself thinking about the fact that I am no more than a simple human being with nothing much at my fingertips that could help me make a substantial difference in this world. I think this is especially true when we’re talking about addressing massive social problems like tackling world hunger, saving the rainforests, fighting for animal rights or finding a cure for cancer, but it pops up all of the time in our everyday lives, as well. So when I catch myself thinking that way, it helps to remember this story.

You might not be able to change the entire world, but at least you can change a small part of it, even if it’s for one person, one animal or just one tree. 

They say that one of the most common reasons we procrastinate is because we see the challenge before us as overwhelming, and that a good way to counter that is to break the big challenge down into smaller pieces and then take those one at a time. Like one starfish at a time.  To that one starfish, it can make a world of difference.

A single, ordinary person still can make a difference – and single, ordinary people are doing precisely that every day. — Chris Bohjalian, Vermont-based author and speaker


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