Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Mo's Angels

The other day I read a comment in the Straits Times made by the veteran diplomat Mr Tommy Koh that Singapore is a "first-world country with a third world people". His comment was based on the perception that is shared by many that Singaporeans are unkind, selfish and impolite in general.  Mr Koh added, "I love Singapore. I would die for Singapore. But are we perfect people? We are not,". But then, are any people perfect? I would think not!

Raising a differently-abled child anywhere in the world is the litmus test for gauging the civility and compassion of a nation. My intention is not to debate the third worldliness of Singaporeans rather it is to share my two sides of the story in relation to Mo, my 22-year-old son with autism.

Mo is a Universal Studios and Orchard Road regular, meaning his two days off from work are spent either browsing/hanging out on Orchard or riding roller coasters on repeat in Universal Studios. On occasion, he has come across shopkeepers who have threatened him with calling security because he was staring at some expensive merchandise for too long or for instance when once he was trying out too many pairs of glasses, he was reprimanded and asked to leave. Unable to comprehend the reaction of people towards his naïve behaviours, Mo returned home perturbed, questioning his actions and why they were perceived as inappropriate. Despite my endless explanations, understanding the intricacies of appropriate vs inappropriate social behaviour continues to be a struggle for Mo. I suppose life will teach him through trial and error some of its complexities, as he continues to navigate its ups and downs. However, the reason for my writing today is not to highlight the not so pleasant encounters that Mo has had in his life, rather it is to acknowledge the angels that he has come across this past year.
Mo landed a job in McDonald’s last year thanks to Yahya the ex-manager at McDonald's Alocassia Serviced Apartments. Yahya received Mo with open arms and trained him patiently despite his very busy schedule and lack of resources. Mo was given the job of drive-thru cashier where at
the beginning he made mistakes sometimes resulting in a cash deficit but the staff at Mc. Donald’s supported him and were instrumental in the completion of a successful and happy one year at work (thank you Adila, Clarence and Mohan among others). When recently, Mo left Mc. Donald’s, because according to Mo “I enjoyed working in Mc. Donald’s but I have to upgrade my skills” his managers contacted me to express their affection for Mo and regret at his leaving. My heart swelled with pride and gratitude.
Once again two more angels have appeared in Mo’s life at his new job at Starbucks. Royston who is the manager of Starbucks in the CBD picked up Mo’s enquiry and offered to train him. When I met him and Mon (the other manager who Mo will be working under) I felt that I was entrusting Mo into safe hands. Both managers welcomed Mo onboard with extreme warmth and encouragement. Mo is super excited to work at Starbucks and not just because he gets to have his favourite caramel Frappuccino every day. As for me, I am beginning to believe that Mo’s dream of opening his own café one day will really come true thanks to some very first world people in this first world country.