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Teresa Hsu Chih (1898-2011) – tribute & lessons learnt. December 20, 2011

Posted by @Karen_Fu in change, ethics, faith, human quality, life challenges, real power, Singapore.
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Image taken from hestar.com.my modified by daringtochange at wordpress 20 Dec 2011

[Image from the Star.com.my; modified to use on DaringToChange at WordPress]

I don’t know how to chant. Neither do I know the actual culture of praying in the religious sense. I only know ‘amitabha‘ for Buddhism and ‘the lords prayer‘ for the Roman Catholic. Teresa Hsu used to be a Roman Catholic before she was converted to Buddhism. I supposed it was uncanningly a perfect fit somewhat. So I decided I’ll just shut my eyes, knelt down and just prayed in my style at a temple. I probably did it all wrong and I hope someone who knows how to pray could mend it up. She instructed no ceremonials or rites, but she didn’t instruct people not to offer prayers.

The turn of the century itself spelt change where the usual formula for success does not hold valid. But often people, usually those who came straight up on the Academic ladder appears to miss points.
The late Teresa Hsu is a fine example. She represents a person who was born with nothing but became almost everything that meant what life is about and how we should run life to be successful. No degree of political and social sciences, nor the degree in ethical studies could match. Why? If a degree could do so, we wont have hypocrites and white collar crime of the most hideous kind and when some of these people are also prestigiously educated. Being purely ethical doesn’t require a degree or a thesis to write about. It is just a common sense logic of feel to what can be done and what cannot be done. It spreads too. People who received kindness will receive kindness because it can be felt.
Born in China in the late 19th century, when China was at the helm of change herself, she must had seen the revolutionaries fought, and how famine starved the thousands to death. She was a survivor whose father abandoned her mother with three children, someone who didn’t even know when her birthday was. She was obviously a disadvantaged child right from the start. Under such a background, children tend to grow up with a resent of how life has ill-treated them. The after effects of a harsh surrounding, too, would have sculpted the character of a demon. Such of which many villains turned up to be. But she didn’t.

I never believe that a life that is lack of love and sensitivity could bring up a harmonious society. It is logical to educate people not only on ethical aspects but as well as the skills that we need to learn. But I am afraid that I have over emphasized the value of education itself when I see some elites failing to or rather choose to ignore the voices of the common ground of layman and the disadvantaged. It is in such a materialistic society usually in a highly sophisticated and urbanized setting that people tend to care for themselves. Where the extreme class disparity spells hatred due to the short of genuine communication. Surely some people are lazy to be upwardly mobile. And some are just born to be bad no matter how much energy you put in to drag them out into the positive light. However it seems in today’s context, the misgivings of top education where prestige and material benefits over weigh the justice in life do make a lot of people hypocritical. It also boils up uprise of demonstrations and riots from the ground because fairness is absent. Shades of grey are chosen over the distinct colors of black and white where your eyes and your heart knows what is right and wrong.

Teresa Hsu knew the differences. She sure sounded simple but should the simple parts of speech be undermined and labelled as inferior? Her key aim was to make sure no one in her power would go hungry/ to feel inferior due to disparities/ be left out of being loved and cherished. The idea of her ‘hee hee ha ha’ philosophy by being plain happy may be simple and to some, simply laughable but she went to places and she made things happen. If she had not been intelligent she wouldn’t be ale to build rapports with people in such a wide scope and understood pain and suffering in depth.
She was an avid learner. Despite poverty, she got herself educated when at the time where females were despised. She came to Singapore, where the size of this country is no where the size of most small countries in the world. She represented the Chinese emigrants of the 20th century who came to South East Asia with nothing but perseverance and motivation to strike a new life based on diligence and thriftiness . What made her stood out was she stood absolutely pure and outlived everyone to pass on the message of simple love.
We should always remember her teachings and her 100 years of struggle. If we fail to remember how our forefathers have taught us and go into a line of deceit, shortsightedness fights and arrogance, then we will fail miserably and wasted our forefathers’ sacrifice.

With only a Senior Cambridge qualification, she worked as stenographer and could have been very well off given her character and intelligence. But at the age of around 47, she chose to be a a nurse. A profession that was not highly paid with very tedious work to do. She never seeked fame and humbled herself despite the obstacles she had faced. At many times, I am so glad she lived long enough for us to discover her. Just when we started to know her, her health began to frail.

It may sound strange but when I saw her starting to slow down in her thoughts, and when she finally lost all her teeth about 2 years ago, I had that ominous feeling she may not live long. The point when she was in the wheelchair had actually foretold me she would definitely not live long. But still when I learned about her passing on the 14th, it was nonetheless a huge shock and sadness was beyond words. The worse hit was the part she didn’t want anyone to collect her remains and despite she was a Buddhist, she wanted no rites and all. She made herself disposable to all man kind who needed help. But she disposed herself in the manner that I personally cannot take it. She deserves the highest respect and honor for what she thought was nothing. Simply because the deeds she didn’t require any kind of high end skills or ‘professionalism.’
I beg to differ. In reality there are just too many who scramble to get what is in for them, and would do whatever despicable means to reach their goals. It is ‘professional’ but professional deceit. Be it bullying, backstabbing and even physical killing, she definitely knew all that. Yet she threw everything out and gave even her youth, her time, her energy and money to those who were in need. She neither showed detest or the slightest resentment to those who had done her in. She gave her all and wanted none in return. Her caretaker must have felt bad to keep the news of her death secret and finally broke out a week after her cremation which happened on the same day of her death.
She made herself totally disposable.

She should have at least allowed people to collect her remains. Though she had no immediate family of her own, she is part of our Singaporean family. In duty, we should collectively collect her remains because she died with no family of her own. She treated herself almost like thrash when she treasured others like gold. That made me very upset.It is the most unusual and rare human trait that she illustrated with her life that could shame us all.

It is our duty to repay her years of dedicated work where she kept so quiet about for 100 years. It would be a fine idea to set up a monument in remembrance of her character that life is always golden when you have passion and compassion.
Upset about her passing not because of her sufferings and that in a world where deceit lies and shades of grey, here is a human being whose life goal is to keep everyone out of hunger.
She may sound simplistic In her approach to her salvation of the human race, but then again who is to say that with degrees of expertise that you could give everyone their livelihood and to filled their stomachs?
We deserve a good bash and a smack in the face for the life we had and the education we had never really sort out problems for good. Rigidity in the methods of thinking and solving has never been really freed. It has been in some kind of system that is over layered by yet another set of system. As a result, many lost feel of the ground which the fundamentals that we call harmony, peace and love that are replaced by unreal efforts to attentively listen to needs and wants. The part where knowledge is there for us to benefit those who deserve them is never really touched because we think we are so far up and so important.

Change has come in my opinion for the next year. Why? Many have come to believe that current systems fail as they cannot solve social economic problems that are in the world. Would we be damn foolish to stay corrected when problems are not solved? And that the quality of human character changes for the worse as a result?

2012 will certainly be another step to the turn of tides. People will question more and with the tearing down of barriers of various kinds.

Here is a human being whose education was deprived. She had no degree, nevermind a PhD. but she strived to learn beyond books and education systems could deliver. She kept 2000 books at her hougang residence. Why? Because she had the curiosity to explore with the positive zest of life that most people don’t have.

She should know that when people start to ask where she was when her active lifestyle suddenly stopped, and when people wondered where she was. You can’t stop people and the media to know about you because you are a special person.

I am only a little elfinic citizen who wishes that her remains will be kept by the state and be given special treatment. She is an inspiration for us all here in Singapore and probably for others abroad.
If we follow her simple virtues and steadfast duties, would we have unrests, riots, demonstrations and terrorism?
If there is a spiritual channel which she could read this, I would really want her to know that there are many many Singaporeans who would be more than willing to take care of her. And there are people ready to collect her remains and give her the deserved respect and the rites. It is not a trouble at all compared to her century’s effort. She cannot be left like that for the quantity and the quality of humanity she had given with her life.
Madam Teresa, you gave both passion and compassion to us all. It is our duty to take care of you even after death. It is definitely not a trouble at all. Rest in peace, our redeemer, our positive cheerful person whose humor may not be sophisticated but definitely first class with her clever simplicity.
You’ve made all Singaporeans, and the Overseas Chinese proud.
Karen fu
1. Other related posts on this site on Teresa Hsu: https://daringtochange.wordpress.com/tag/teresa-hsu-chih/


1. Karen - December 21, 2011

talin401, many thanks for following and like my post. Hope the message will spread round for the art of goodness does pay for all of us. Thanks again for your visit.

2. Dan - December 23, 2011

Great post Karen! Did you know her personally?

I’m @danism on Twitter btw .. 🙂

3. Karen - December 24, 2011

Hi Dan

Not exactly. But I really admire her character very much. Her idea for happiness is really a sound blueprint for not only our daily living but on the way how governments, businesses and education as well. What is quite unfortunate is that the media has not put her deeds and calling huge enough though CNN and TED have done so. If we look around, she is not quite as popular. Sad that she is gone. But I am fortunate to learn so much from her. Looking at her biography and the colleges that confer her the honory degrees, I can be really sure that top colleges deprive giving her honory degree because she wasn’t top notch in her way of presentation. We dwell in too much on what is traditional excellence. Surely 100 years of continual perseverance and kindness beats many who even go on to win awards but don’t 100% have the heart for humanity. There is always an agenda because most people who want the name are egoistic to different degrees. While she may only have the few colleges who gave her the academic recognition, we should try our best to promote her deeds as far as we can. It may not be really very much, but every bit goes a long way. That shall be a stronger foundation and be kept in our minds forever.

Thanks for dropping by and looking forward to hearing from you soon.



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