A cement mixer and saying Hi

There’s a lot of construction, or some would say upgrading, work being done in my small neighbourhood. First it was the ‘renewal’ of the playground and adult exercise corners, some of which weren’t more than 5 years old.

Then kilometres of grassy hedges were hacked up to build parallel cycling paths. Now they are smashing up the perpendicular paths and filling them up again. So we see all sorts of diggers and today, chanced upon a cement mixer at work. 
Since we had time, we paused to look.  I got a chance to explain to K why the barrel of the cement mixer had to keep moving, what it contained, and how the liquid would eventually solidfy. 

We even took a video of the cement spewing out, and the workers spreading it out with hoes. 
After we came back from our errand, it was all nicely spread out.

Here’s how it looked when it had completely dried. I appreciated the fact that it was rougher gravel this time, instead of smooth slippery cement.  There was even a row of tactile tiles for the blind, indicating steps. Great teaching moment, for K to witness first hand how pavements are made!
As a result of all this building work, there are quite a number of construction workers around our estate too. Most Singaporeans hurry past such foreign workers, either treating them like they don’t exist, or wishing they didn’t exist.
For us, I feel that having very young children is a good ice-breaker. We’ve started with the cleaners in our estate.  Instead of treating them like pariahs, we have the children chirp “Hello Uncle!” and wave bye-bye when we meet. It’s harder with K, but she does agree with wave bye, and I’d smile and say “Good morning” too. It’s a bit harder without children around, but usually I still manage a small smile, and deliberately not veer away from them, as most might. Such shunning might be virtually imperceptible, but I’m sure those who experience it feel it keenly. 
Whilst children have to be aware of safety issues, I find that most times, we see danger where there is none. (The general rule we tell the kids to observe, is not to talk to strangers when we are not around. But at this age, we are always with them anyway.) These construction workers and cleaners may be alien to us because they are from foreign countries, but I’d say that most of them are hardworking people just like us, trying to eke a decent living out in a foreign land.
Their jobs may be menial, but all the more we should appreciate them for doing work that no one else born and bred here is willing to do. The least we could do is treat them as equals, instead of suspecting all as would-be criminals.
I want my children to grow up understanding that there is dignity in every job, no matter how low-paying or undesirable it may seem to the world. I want them to grow up giving respect to every human being, and not discriminating against those who were born with fewer opportunities than us.
So I am glad, when 2 year old B shouts “Hello Uncle!” without prompting when she spots a bright yellow tee.  And I grin, when he smiles and yells “Hello little baby!” back.  He probably has a family that he dearly misses back home.  He might even have children of the same age that he is working day and night here to support. 
It doesn’t take much to make the world a kinder place.  A smile, a nod of acknowledgement, a gesture to let them know their work is appreciated. Tiny steps towards a more gracious Singapore.

  7 comments for “A cement mixer and saying Hi

  1. June 12, 2013 at 2:35 am

    Feel like I could have written this myself! 🙂 I do this too, and while Noey likes to importantly tell me that we shouldn’t talk to strangers, I always tell him it never hurts to be polite. I think it would brighten anyone’s day to see B’s cheery grin!

    • June 12, 2013 at 9:40 am

      haha, such an old soul!

      True – it’s polite! Thanks – I can add to them that it’s basic courtesy. 🙂

  2. June 12, 2013 at 5:59 am

    Love this. And yes, I love how children have no barriers when it comes to people. That’s something we adults have to learn from them. 🙂 My boy waves goodbye to all and sundry, whether you are old or young, fair or dark-skinned.

    • June 12, 2013 at 9:52 am

      That’s lovely. We learn so much from our children too!

  3. June 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I really love this post and I cannot agree more. Think it’s important to impart such values to our young children and they are never too young to learn!

    Separately, I do think that foreign workers are a very misunderstood bunch and I am so glad there are people like you around!

    • June 13, 2013 at 3:22 am

      Glad that you feel the same way! There is hope for the next generation of Singaporeans I guess, haha!

  4. June 13, 2013 at 8:46 am

    You’re right to teach your child that, mummy. My boy likes to observe the cleaning uncle at our block even though he can’t really speak yet. It’s as if he recognizes the uncle. maybe he does (:

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