Singaporeans are fortunate. We live in a place where the system is for the most part well-designed, the crime rate is comparatively low, the political system is relatively clean and the people are generally prosperous. But there is a downside to being so sheltered. Let’s face it, when you use your bag to reserve seats at the hawker centre, the thought of it being stolen probably did not even cross your mind.

This lack of awareness may be subtle but it permeates every area of our lives.

For instance, not too long ago, I was sitting in my air conditioned class when I saw the left side of the classroom fidget. My professor asked them what they were doing.

“Prof, there is this funny smell.”

“I think it smells like smoke.”

“It might be the haze. But it smells too strong to be that strong.”

To that the professor answered, “I smell it too. I have been trying to figure out where this burning smell is coming from. But you know, the fire alarm didn’t go off so we can’t evacuate. Too bad, class has to go on.

 “But if you want, you can evacuate from the left side of the classroom to the right,” my professor added jokingly.

Everyone giggled. And of course, no one moved.

I chuckled too. It was only afterwards that I realised that we have so much faith in one little bell that we are chucking aside our better judgement unquestioningly. What if there really was a fire but the alarm had been disabled? Will it be a scenario where we sit in the classroom thinking, “there is no fire because the fire alarm didn’t say so” while we are surrounded by flames on all sides?

Danger usually happens in the most familiar places. You are so used to a place or a routine that you lower your guard. That is when misfortune creeps up on you and strikes. Ask the frog, he knows.

Frog: Oh regrets, much regrets.

Angel: What is it, frog?

Frog: Oh! To have your life cut short, what regret!

Angel: Didn’t you commit suicide? I was watching from above when you died, by boiling no less. You had this look of absolute peace on your face, and you died without a struggle.

Frog: “Ah! Accursed. The farmer caught me and put me inside a pot. The water inside was cool and it reminded me of my pond. So I swam around in contentment. Had I known what would happen to me after that, I would have jumped out immediately! But anyway, back to my story. Slowly the cold water got warmer and my muscles relaxed. I found a comfortable spot and sat down, finally cognisant of why humans use warm water to bathe. Having a warm water bath is utter bliss! After a while, my eyelids started drooping and my limbs felt heavy. I started nodding off and it became difficult to stay awake. Half conscious, I could sense the water getting hot but by that time, all I wanted to do was sleep. And I did.

“When I woke up, I am here – in afterlife! A place where there are no flies for me to munch on and no larvae for me to suck on. Oh, how I regret!”

Do you want to regret? If not, don’t be like the frog. Be alert to your surroundings. Especially now that ISIS is ravaging the globe, a vigilant citizen can make all the difference between life and death.

Being vigilant is also an attitude that will help you in your studies. Are your careless mistakes costing you precious marks? Make it a point today to read the question carefully, to place your decimal point at the correct place, and to punch the numbers on your calculator quickly but accurately. 

An alert mind can make all the difference between pass and fail.