Some time in the early 90’s my father was given a public service award for his contributions to education. It came as a surprise to all of us, since he never mentioned anything about it, and the only times we saw him getting close to education was when he signed our school report cards.
He explained that over the years, he had been donating money to a Chinese school affiliated with one of the Hainanese clans in Singapore. He also said it wasn’t a big deal, but I’m sure it was – because no ordinary donor would have been shortlisted for a public service award.
When he received the invitation to the ceremony, he showed it to me and asked me if he should attend. I said, “Why not? You deserve it”.
He went, came home, and I asked him how it was. He said, “Nothing lah. So long the whole thing”.
I asked him to show me the award or certificate he must have received, and he said, “Don’t have lah. They only give me this block of wood”.
He showed me the “block of wood”, and said, “Useless. Can put on your desk”, probably thinking it was a paperweight.
I took the block of wood, removed the ribbon around it, and opened it to show him a medal. We spent the next hour laughing at his silliness.