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Lessons in Compassion

November 29, 2012

From James Poh Ching Ping

In January, millionaire and cosmetic surgeon Richard Teo, 40, who was a typical product of society today, shared about his life experiences to a class of medical students.

Influenced by the media and people around him, he had equated happiness with success and success with wealth. With this mindset, he was always competitive and excelled in school, sports and leadership. But all his achievements did not bring him inner wealth.

There is nothing wrong with pursuing wealth, which is not the goal but a means to an end. However, for many of us, the more we have, the more we want – from a sedan car to a Ferrari. The joy of showing off our possessions is instant but will not last forever.

The late Dr Teo, who had Stage 4 lung cancer, also shared a story about a friend who moved a snail from a path to a grass patch so that it would not be crushed. He used to think that anything that got in the way of humans deserved to be crushed, as part of evolution.

On reflection, he shared that his first instinct as a doctor should have been to feel his patients’ pain rather than going about his tasks routinely – a reminder to doctors-to-be to have compassion.

Here are excerpts of his talk, a good lesson for our young: “Don’t get the idea that only poor people suffer … A lot of poor people don’t have much in the first place; they’re easily contented. For all you know, they’re happier than you and me.

“But there are, out there, people who are suffering mentally, physically, hardship, emotionally, financially and so on – and they’re real. We choose to ignore them, or we just don’t want to know that they exist.

“You have to decide whether you want to serve yourself or whether you’re going to make a difference in somebody else’s life. Because true happiness doesn’t come from serving yourself. I thought it did, but it didn’t turn out that way.”


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