Tolerance and Kindness

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

—Maya Angelou


One of the most powerful things my parents did for me, as a child, was to take me to India every couple of years. The purpose was to visit family. This was several decades ago. While in the country, there was a list of people my parents needed to see and spend time with. We also visited a few cities. It was these cities that starkly illustrated the divide between the rich, the middle class and the poor.

Born Lucky

The desperately poor were beggars, living on the streets. So many of them were children. Little children with matted hair and thin bodies. They swarmed around us begging for a few coins. And unlike the local populace in those cities, I wasn’t used to the sight of beggars. I was a foreigner and an outsider from, and born in, Singapore.

So when I looked into the eyes of those children, with similar features and skin tones as mine, I saw myself. And it was frightening and bewildering. The fact, with my childlike understanding, was that I happened to be born at a time and in a place that gave me comforts and security. These children had no such luck.

Tolerance and Respect

Over the years, the encounters with those beggar children, made me slowly come to realize something. The capacity of those children and their will to survive, was leagues ahead of anyone in a prosperous country. The suffering the impoverished children endured, was not something they asked for or deserved. Therefore, I had no right to act like I was more deserving or more entitled than the next person, wherever I was in the world

The only way I thought I could compensate for the hand I had been dealt, the luck I had, was this. It was to try and respect the dignity of others no matter their lot in life. To not be unkind to them. And under no circumstance, was I to go out of my way to harm or hurt them. Or demand more for myself.

Bad Experiences and Wisdom

When I met my soulmate, S, while undergoing a contentious divorce with my ex-husband, he said that the primary thing he found attractive about me was this. It was that my past experience with abuse did not make me take out my bitterness on strangers.

That I did not show unkindness or hostility towards others. People who had nothing to do with my past bad experiences or the things I experienced in my former marriage. That I still had faith in the intrinsic good of people and I didn’t assume the worst in people. I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

I guess my experience seeing those beggar children all those years ago, made a bigger impact on me than I realized. The only thing I had to be, was grateful. And I had to acknowledge that I was lucky and to try to do things, in my own way, in my life to help others.

But I certainly was not and am not perfect. Far from it.

Not to Act Entitled

Today, when I see someone show unkindness or cruelty to people who were not directly the cause of their pain, I remember these lessons from my childhood. The thing is that none of us get to intimidate or indiscriminately criticize someone, just because we are having a hard time. Or because of what we perceive the person represents. We should not be pushy or demanding of them, without real cause.

We should also teach our children in various ways to be kind and tolerant. To be understanding of others and to be respectful. We must teach our children not to act entitled. Being respectful is to sincerely show that we don’t look down on others, in word and deed. To be aware and kind. And we definitely must ensure our children not be prideful. Let us show them through example, what true tolerance, kindness and respect look like.

We need to be examples to our children.


I truly hope in my own soul journey, that I can reach the truest point of tolerance, respect and kindness, sooner rather than later.

Everyone’s struggle is different and our journeys are different. Everyone is just trying to do our best. We just cannot understand another person’s experience, through our perspective alone. Not everyone can be empathetic nor sympathetic. But we can learn to be more tolerant. In essence, we need to tolerate, respect and be kind to our fellow human beings.

The world truly needs this from us, in order to be a better place…for everyone.

person holding coins
A few Indian coins in a woman’s worn, damaged hands
Photo by Riya Kumari on


  1. You cannot fight fire with fire. Similarly you cannot fight hate with hate. Hate only begets more hate. Just like a child throwing a tantrum – the only way to guide people out of it is with love and understanding. Beautiful message Sue 🙏

    • Thanks, AP2. Sometimes, it is easy to practice this philosophy. On other days, people are just so nasty I think to myself that I am too much of an idealist. That I should just give up trying. But then if everyone gives up, we have a hateful world mired in misery.

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