By Serene Leong

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

In J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the venerable archwizard Dumbledore was counselling the titular hero of the series during a moment of doubt.

It was the end of Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, and he had just defeated Tom Riddle (who is later revealed to be his nemesis Voldemort) in the Chamber of Secrets and saved the school. It’s a good day, right? But Harry was conflicted. He was afraid of the similarities between himself and Voldemort. Is he a dark wizard in the making?

No, Dumbledore reassured him. While Harry and Voldemort are both powerful wizards, Harry chose to use his talents for good — the true measure of greatness, he said.

Wise words indeed from Dumbledore.

Everyday choices

In reality, our everyday choices are more mundane than magical.

Chicken rice or nasi lemak? 25% or 50% bubble tea sugar level? Watch Netflix or do a workout? (I admit, the latter is much more difficult)

Some choices involve more careful consideration.

Should I choose this school or that school? This job or that job? We ponder, seek advice and stress over the possible outcomes before finally making an informed decision. After all, every decision we make today, big or small, could lead us down a completely different path down the road.

Some choices involve a sacrifice.

From Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame to Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a character giving his or her life for another is always a mark of heroism on the big screen. Self-sacrifice has been the trait of a character’s stoicism, selflessness, and passion for the greater good.

Over the past year, many Singaporeans have also sacrificed their time and effort (perhaps not so dramatically, but just as heroically) to help those affected by the pandemic, from three sisters who set up an Instagram account to raise awareness of elderly hawkers to volunteers who reach out to migrant workers trapped in their dormitories.

It shows that heroes do exist among us.

There is dignity too, in choosing to face our personal battles. Sometimes, simply waking up to face the challenges of the day ahead is a choice in itself, especially during times when we feel like giving up.

Kindness, too, is a choice.

While I believe that kindness is innate in us — studies have shown that babies as young as six months are able to show empathy — it needs to be unlocked, like a switch to be flicked on when the opportunity presents itself.

Would you give up your seat on the MRT for a pregnant woman? (What if she is not pregnant, would she get offended?)

Would you help an elderly man struggling to cross the street (What if going out of your way to help him causes you to be late for an appointment?)

Would you pick up that piece of tissue that flew off your tray at the hawker centre? (No one saw it, right?) — oh, and don’t forget to return your tray at the end of the meal!

The true test of a person’s character is what he or she would do when no one is watching.

‘The Dress’

In an interactive video called “The Dress” by the Singapore Kindness Movement, viewers are invited to take on the persona of a young millennial who is still settling into the neighbourhood.

When given the opportunity to meet a new neighbour through a dress that you found, would you track down the owner? Or mind your own business?

You get to decide.

Make your choices. Explore different paths. And discover how a kinder you, with even the smallest act of graciousness, can make us stronger and greater.

There really is no right or wrong way to do it. Even choices that turn out less than ideal can teach us something if we take it as a learning experience.

The good news is that tomorrow is a new day. The slate is clean. The possibilities are endless.

What would you choose?

To play interactive video ‘The Dress’, please click on the link:

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