Mothers tend to get all the limelight. They’re the ones who give birth to us, they feed, clothe and fuss over us when we’re kids, and there’s no shortage of retail offers reminding us to buy her some flowers or a new TV set whenever Mother’s Day is just around the corner.
But that’s not to say that Dads are lesser heroes. Quite the contrary, as for their stoic and stern demeanor (if your father falls neatly into the Asian dad stereotype), they’re often our source of strength, entertainment and important lessons that last a lifetime.
This Father’s Day, we look back at how our fathers have shaped our lives in their own ways.
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Blown away by compassion
“Recently, my dad told me that he’d buy me a new fan for my room. I interrupted with a protest on the grounds that mine was working fine, and that buying a new one would be a waste of money.
But he said: “Wait, let me finish. Every day, when I go downstairs to buy coffee, I’ll see the toilet auntie sitting there with a fan that looks broken. The weather is getting hot now, and your fan is so old anyway. I thought we could clean yours up and donate it to her.”
That shut me up and left me really ashamed of myself. It wasn’t just that he was being compassionate, but that he actually bothered keeping an eye out for someone else’s welfare. That was so inspiring; it made me feel proud to call him Dad.” – Cheryl Leong, 34
“When I was about ten, I remember sitting at the windowsill and watching my dad help build the family house. He wasn’t a construction guy by trade (he was a diamond trader), but he would sweat and toil with the workers in his employment just to gain a different perspective on life.
I would often hear his trademark deep, bellowing laugh from the worksite as he dug alongside the workers. They would work side by side during the day, then share laughs and stories in the evenings. He even learned a little Thai, just to communicate with them better.
It amazed me how hard he tried to really understand and improve the working conditions for his workers.
Thinking about it now, I realise that by watching my father I learned an important lesson: empathy. Most people don’t give construction workers a second look, but my father treated them like family. I feel like if everybody did that the world would be a far better place.” – Alexander Chan, 28
Don’t try this at home
“When I was about six years old, the cartoons I watched taught me that putting pepper on a character’s nose made them sneeze. One day while getting McDonald’s with my father, I asked, in the spirit of inquiry, whether or not it was true that sniffing pepper really would have that effect.
Dad looked at me for a moment, then suggested I try it out for myself. He pushed a napkin over to me, emptied a packet of pepper onto it and handed me a straw.
Unsuspecting, I put one end of the straw in the pepper and the other right up my nostril, before proceeding to snort as hard as my little lungs could. Some of the pepper got stuck in the straw, but I inhaled a pretty good nose-ful.
You know the feeling you get when you eat too much wasabi? That feeling of searing, white heat shooting up your nose directly into your brain for a few seconds? That was me for a good five minutes. I immediately started screaming, and my dad had to bring me to the toilet, where I tried to dig out all the pepper while bawling at the top of my lungs.
Although it sounds traumatic, it’s pretty funny to look back on it now, and my family still laughs about the story today.
I learnt a lesson that day that has served me well for many years: don’t believe everything you see on television.” – Jordan Alsagoff, 24
Don’t hesitate to help someone in need
“When I was about five years old, I went on a trip to Thailand with my parents. We were walking along the streets, when my dad was approached by a young beggar who pointed to the water bottle that he was holding.
Without saying a word, my dad handed it to him, and the boy chugged down the water like it was his first drink in days.
Thinking back, that was probably my first brush with compassion. But to a five-year-old girl then, my father’s act was confusing: Why would he give away a bottle of water that he’d bought with his own money?
When I asked, his answer was simply that the kid had needed it more than we did. To this day, I still feel like that experience taught me a more important lesson in kindness than any moral education class ever did!” – Marilyn Peh, 29
Kindness isn’t always easy
My father was the director of a voluntary welfare organisation for many years before he was diagnosed with cancer and had to stop working.
Unfortunately, the organisation eventually ran into some financial problems and couldn’t pay its staff.
His health gradually worsened, and while he was seriously ill and staying in the hospital, a charity foundation made a substantial donation to help him, amounting to almost S$100,000. The sum was to help him clear his outstanding medical bills so he could focus on his treatment.
To everyone’s surprise, my dad used the money to pay all his former staff’s outstanding salaries instead.
Before he passed on, he explained to my mother why he did it. He told her that just as he was blessed by others in his time of need, he could not turn a blind eye to the needs of his staff and their families. He chose to spread the blessing around.
He taught me that no matter how bad your life or situation is, you can always do something to help others, even if sometimes, kindness comes with sacrifice.” – Japheth, 24
Whether they annoy you with their dad quirks or serve as your pillar of strength and wisdom through life’s ups and downs, we say – give the most important man in your life a big hug, and make him feel special this Father’s Day.