A Gift for Future Generations

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As part of the celebrations of Singapore’s 50 years of independence, Singaporean couples having children in 2015 will receive a basket of 8 items as a gift. They unveiled one of the items this morning: a photoframe and a scrapbook for parents to store their memories in.

It was the comments from many members of the public that really struck me.

Getting a scrapbook isn’t striking the lottery, I’ll give you that. But does a gift - any gift - deserve to be so rudely criticised and snubbed?

For the parents who looked down on and scoffed at this small gesture by the State, how would it feel if this Christmas your kids said your presents were crap right to your face, just because it wasn’t what they really wanted? They’d just be following your example. It is not the scrapbook I care about. It is the lack of maturity that drives me insane.

You have no idea what you have. You have no clue how much our forebears worked to get us here. Sure, it’s not perfect. Glad you noticed. Now you going to get your hands dirty and make it better or you’re just going to stand there, palms to the heavens, whining that someone ought to give you more free stuff?

Get busy, Singapore. Our character as a nation, evidenced by our actions and our words, isn’t currently a legacy we can be proud of handing down to our children. There’s work to be done. Let’s do it together.

Pause

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It has been more than a month since I started at the new job, yet it still feels so surreal that I left the world that had become familiar to me for almost a decade. The work before me is very loosely defined, and there are days I feel so out of my depth at what needs to be done, but comforted by the fact I am surrounded by colleagues who are so willing to give of themselves. And yet there are other times when the scope seems so narrow, as I find the footprints of others before me on the path I planned to walk.

Above all things I constantly remind myself never to forsake my heart for public service even though I am no longer officially a public servant. That the labour of my hands might make life better for another, and never to take the privilege of serving other people for granted.

Over the last month, I have had so much to learn as I entered this world that is entirely alien to me. It felt unsettling to not be able to contribute off the bat. My previous transfers within the public sector were from organisations that took me in because they needed me for specific tasks. This was the first time in a long time the organisation I joined knew little about me. I suppose my battle scars within the public service had gained me some measure of notoriety and made it easy for needs to align with skills.

I didn’t like the feeling of being lost. But I think God knew I needed the time to pray and depend upon Him.

Things are slowly falling into place and the pace has picked up quickly. I welcome the familiar adrenaline rush and the feeling that I am contributing towards the team. Some of the amazing things this team does makes me proud to be here.

The familiar shackles no longer chafe. I’m sure I will find the boundaries here, but for now I’m thankful chance to stretch some old muscles and fly.

Cadence

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Praise

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It’s been two weeks since I started working at Google, and a fitting time to do a quick reflection.

The learning opportunities have been astounding. It still feels surreal that I’ve left the government, and there are moments when I look at the immensity of the work before me and want to crawl back to what is familiar and comfortable. But I know that all this is for a reason, and my colleagues have been very reassuring, telling me that no one human could possibly be expected to do all that has been laid out in a short time.

The competitor (or Singaporean) in me wants to try though.

It has been a new experience working with so many people from all over the world. It is quite amazing to see how the hiring process has brought in similar-minded people. The culture of “googleyness” - a term which carries infinitely more weight than just being a gimmicky term at Google - helps extend the commonalities within us. Diversity in culture and country of origin doesn’t become a stumbling block, but our different experiences and skills add texture to our interactions, and enables us to tackle the difference nuances present in the different geographical markets in which we operate.

It’s often described as a dream job and Google really does take care of its employees. The facilities folks ensure that the working environment is always in tip-top shape. The shower hose was a little torn and leaking, so I sent a online ticket, and they had it changed in a matter of days. The amazing food that the chefs come up with everyday; the IT staff that works hard to provide us with all the tools we need - all these help us concentrate solely on the work at hand.

It feels odd not suffering for my work, and to be frank, I don’t think my spiritual upbringing equipped me to handle blessing very well. There has always been an element of sacrifice in my previous jobs, a “for King and country”, if you might. So I sometimes wonder if I have taken the path which God means for me to, or if I have chosen to walk the worldly way.

In my early morning walks and time of prayer with the Lord I am slowly accepting where I am, and have apologised for not being able to be joyfully thankful for this job which He has given. The verse that comes to mind is “which father, if his son asks for bread, would give him a stone?” (Matt 7:9). Maybe in our zeal to put down the prosperity gospel we are a little shocked that the bread does not have any pebbles in them.

Maybe the appropriate response now is to raise my eyes to Him in praise, and rediscover what it means when we say “God is good”. And that my job, while bereft of the common pain points, is an avenue for Him to work through me. There will be suffering, but suffering should not be the signature characteristic of our walk with God. It ought to be joy, happiness and fulfillment in spite of.

He is good. It’s not my normal spiritual posture, but I desire to be near Him, even in good times.

Shifting into Gear

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It’s been a good break.

In the last two and a half weeks, I didn’t get to visit all the lesser known parts of Singapore I had initially wanted to, but I did start writing a bit more, and taking more photos. It has been cathartic. Three of my latest photostories on Exposure have been picked by their staff to be featured:

  1. Remembering Sacrifice - my visit to Kranji War Memorial
  2. Slowing Down - cycling around Pulau Ubin
  3. and Homecoming - reminiscing childhood memories made in Rochor Centre, where I grew up, which is slated for demolition in 2016

I hope to keep on capturing moments through photography, and to make penning down my thoughts as natural as exhalation. I really missed the writing process - revisiting it has made me more appreciative of what God has placed in my life.

As this transition comes to a close, work begins next Monday.

I am joining Google as a user education and outreach specialist. It is a new chapter in my career, and a fitting extension of my calling to serve the public. I am constantly in awe of the many things Google has been working on, and it still hasn’t totally hit home that I am privileged to have this opportunity to contribute towards these efforts. I am thankful and humbled.

To God be the glory.

About

The weblog of Lucian Teo who resides in Singapore. He is husband to the most beautiful wife, father to the most amazing kids. Photographer, storyteller, all-round nice guy [citation needed].

He also blogs about Gov2.0, Storytelling, User Experience Design and Social Media at blog.lucianteo.com.

He can be contacted at lucian@tribolum.com.

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