Most of the influential early settlers in Singapore were already prosperous, according to Mary Turnbull’s book, A History of Singapore 1819–1988. Tan Tock Seng, however, fit the ‘rags to riches’ narrative, rising in riches and eminence through hard work and acumen.
Soon after Singapore’s foundation in 1819, he came to Singapore from Malacca at the age of 21. Back then, the wealthy merchant started as a vendor of vegetables and poultry. Having the necessary business know-how eventually turned him into a successful entrepreneur.
Still, Tan became a philanthropist who gave liberally to society. He had a passion for the sick and poor; at his own expense, he even buried unclaimed bodies or paid the funeral expenses of those who could not afford one.
Even though many Singaporeans today know Tan for the hospital named after him in Novena, his enduring humility remains the most outstanding part of his story.
Today, it’s no secret that humility is one of the most crucial traits that Singaporeans desire from our leaders. While we appreciate those who claim to ‘walk the ground’ and ‘understand the people’, it helps to find out that someone hails from humble beginnings like Tan himself.
At the same time, we must acknowledge that humility isn’t merely about having a modest background. Hallmarks of humility include consistently giving back to the community even when one has progressed up the social ladder, not seeking fame or glory in one’s actions, and being willing to learn from others who are better.
So perhaps the most overlooked aspects of true humility are how sincere and consistent we are in internalising the character trait. After all, it’s one thing to talk about the importance of being humble, but it’s another to embody the quality so deeply that one ‘walks the ground’ and ‘understands the people’ even when there’s zero recognition to be gained.
More Info: ricemedia.co