Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sharing Nugget #48

#48: Olympic Dream 2007 – A story worth telling.

A friend once told me a story of how a schoolmate left a deep impression in her. She was cheering for the male athlete who was competing in the inter-school cross country race at MacRitchie Reservoir. As he was nearing the finishing line, his legs gave way due to sheer exhaustion. He collapsed on the ground.

However, he did not give up. With his hands, he dragged himself across the last few meters to cross the finishing line. To my friend, although that athlete did not win the race, he was her champion that day. He was an inspiration. This story was one worth sharing.

On 15th July 2007, a team of us SMU students, like my friend did years ago, witnessed a story worth telling.

This story had a plot written by Serendipity – an occurrence of fortunate discoveries.

The first stroke of fate was the coming together of a team of like-minded SMU students. We arrived on a scorching Sunday afternoon, ready to expend some perspiration for a good cause – doing laps to raise funds for disabled athletes and student volunteerism. Like streams converging on a river, we who were strangers soon merged into a team with a purpose. Driven by our convictions, our team soon engulfed the stadium tracks like a roaring river.

Then there was this surge of pride that we discovered when a flag was raised above the tidal flow. Flapping in the wind, the flag called attention to the proud Lion head and three big letters of “SMU”.

Once the flag started its rounds around the tracks of Toa Payoh Stadium, it simply did not stop until the event was declared closed. SMU students discovered that the pride of keeping the SMU standard flying overpowered the pain and fatigue caused by the amount of effort needed to run with a flag. It was our Olympic Torch.

That day, SMU discovered Ashley Liew, a freshman who ran a total of 75 rounds (30 km) for the cause – 25 rounds more than the 50 that was required to be awarded a gold medal.

Then, there was Ephraim Lin.

Ephraim, like Ashley, is an SMU freshman. Like many of his peers, he has a youthful outlook and a light-hearted demeanor. But unlike them, Ephraim was struck by Polio when he was very young and lost the ability to use his legs. He is one of the few wheelchair bound SMU students. But Ephraim did not lose his character. He showed that in abundance that day.

Ephraim set out to win a medal. But after 25 laps, his palms were blistered from the punishment of wheeling himself around the tracks at our jogging pace. Without a word of complain, he plastered the raw parts, and wheeled himself back on the tracks. For almost half of the three-hour marathon, the SMU flag was flying proud affixed to Ephraim’s wheelchair like a war banner perched on the admiral’s ship.

Ephraim pushed hard. We were running alongside him, quietly showing our support. Many of us were pushing our limits. Our lungs are tightening, our feet are sore. But Ephraim kept us going.

When then the clock struck 6pm, the event was declared closed. However, Ephraim was 6 laps shy of the gold medal. He had to watch from below the stage as 20 of his team mates received their award. He applauded them. But we could see the disappointment on his face. That was when the organizers offered to allow Ephraim to finish the last 6 laps. Ephraim took the offer without hesitation.

And he did not take on the tracks alone.

Ephraim was accompanied by 10 of his fellow teammates. Despite their fatigue, they rallied behind the SMU flag; and behind Ephraim. The rest of the Team SMU was cheering from the side of the track.

When Ephraim wheeled past the starting point of lap 50, everyone of us joined him. Even the staff from SMU trotted along. As one unstoppable swell of runners on the track lead by Ephraim and the SMU flag, we lost our individual identity. We conquered that last lap as one team, one entity, and one spirit. We were the SMU Spirit.

Ephraim completed his 50 rounds. And on the very track he completed the feat; he was awarded the gold medal.

This story was written by Serendipity. And Serendipity left the biggest discovery at the end. Every SMU citizen that day discovered how a single individual could inspire others to reach beyond their limits. I believe Ephraim also discovered how the support from his teammates made a difference.

Ephraim taught us something valuable in a way so simple. His sheer perseverance was his voice. We all heard him. And we echoed his thunderous roar.

Ephraim was a winner that day. So was Team SMU. And so was every individual who believed in Olympic Dreams 2007 and gave part of their time to ensure its success.

Serendipity wrote the script that day. And now we all have a good story to tell.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sharing Nugget #47

#47: I Remember.

It has been a year since I lost a friend. This Channel News Asia article brought all the memories back. And the sadness back. I remember. Everything.

At least now I know what really happened...

SAF commando drowning at camp ruled a misadventure by court

SINGAPORE : The death of a commando who drowned at a pool training last year was ruled a misadventure in court on Friday.

His instructors were also found not guilty of criminal negligence.

24-year-old Lieutenant Lionel Lin was having water-treading training at Hendon Camp Swimming Pool when the incident happened.

The drill requires trainees to use both hands to hold up a machine gun slung to their body and stay afloat in water at a distance of not more than two to three metres from the gutter.

A coroner’s inquiry on Friday revealed that the training that day was part of Lieutenant Lin's second attempt to pass an elite training course.

He had failed to complete it in 2004.

Lieutenant Lin was a trainee at the 2006/2007 Special Operations Force course.

During the drill on 20 June 2006, one of the instructors noticed the serviceman moving vigorously in water and breathing heavily.

When asked whether he could continue, Lieutenant Lin said yes.

Trouble started when he tried to swim back to the gutter.

He was last seen sinking despite trying to swim with side strokes.

He had stopped breathing by the time he was pulled out of the water.

Camp doctors failed to resuscitate him.

He was pronounced dead at Changi General Hospital. - CNA /ls

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sharing Nugget #46

#46: Why I (Don't) Write

It has been a long time since I wrote.

And I think it is because it has been a long time since I did reflection. Reflection is harsh, tiring, and at times painful. But one must do it sometimes.

My favourite prof once told me, "Writing is the purest form of thinking".

Thinking is tiring, harsh and at times painful. Thus it took me a while to get back into writing (once the summer work slows down).

Anyway, I am writing an article for a magazine about a community service event. There is a great story to be told, and I am under some pressure to deliver it as it is. Thus, I am revisiting "Why I write" by George Orwell - a master of writing - to reflect about how to tell a story well.

Here are some of the gems he shared which I want to know by hard:

"A scrupulous writer," he says, "in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?"

Then I remembered another of my prof who told me that a good essay usually takes three drafts for us mere mortals. Then I also remembered a very sensible line from a movie about a great writer who said, "Write the first draft with your heart. Then write the second one with your head."

I had done the first draft. I tried to tell it as I felt it. And of course, it can be improved much much further. Now I have Orwell's guidelines to write my second draft.

Watch this space.