In 1990, I had an epiphany that opened my heart to the suffering in the world.
That set me on a detour from a life I had planned for myself. I got deeply involved in social change in various forms. This led to a very meaningful life.
However, twenty years on, I felt disconnection and helplessness. When I look back now, I see this was due to different reasons. Partly it was lack of awareness of what kind of mental habits and relationships were life-affirming. I also saw a rise in consumerism. And overall, I didn't feel warmth and connectedness in wider society. I left Singapore for three years. At the end of the three years, I knew it was time to settle down outside Singapore. Little did I know another detour was awaiting.
In 2009, four migrant workers were killed in the goods vehicle they were being transported in. I read about them in the newspaper and saw an image of one of the dead men’s relatives. It felt like a debribulator to my heart. This set me on a journey to learn more about their lives in Singapore. I was wracked with pain and discomfort when I learned about the suffering they underwent in the hands of their employers.
But I had a breakthrough catalysed by a conversation with a construction worker. Those who abuse others are also suffering or their bandwidth is maximized with dealing with their own struggles. Or they just don’t know what they are doing - fully. Hurt people will hurt people unless they heal themselves. My judgemental attitudes towards those who abuse others or simply don’t do much to help society transformed into something unexpected – Love.
This led to unprecedented joy. I became supremely curious about the upliftment I was feeling. This was when I stumbled into the science of happiness, positive psychology and related fields.
Love is a powerful fuel. It makes you feel you can do anything. Joy Works was borne out of this Love. My calling is to help more in Singapore flourish, experience deep joy, love, meaning and fulfillment in their lives. It will help our country grow in a sustainable way.
I set out to help migrant workers. But they finally helped me. And through my work, they are helping Singapore. And my hope is that Singaporeans will feel more able to care about them and other marginalised groups in our society.
I don’t know what has come of the families of the four workers who died in 2009. Little can take away their pain. At the same time, what I do for people in Singapore reminds me that unexpected Light can emerge from extreme darkness.