HONOUR GETS THE TURNIP OUT

Giant Turnip

Honour (Singapore), a non-profit enterprise that seeks the well-being of Singapore by promoting a culture of honour and honouring, was launched by Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat last Tuesday, 5 August 2014.  It seems a fitting lead-in to National Day, which we will celebrate tomorrow, by reminding everyone to honour Singapore.

Honour carries the dual message of

  • being a people who honour our word
  • being a people who honour each other despite possibly having widely different views on issues

Perhaps a good way to appreciate the message can be found in the well-known Russian folk tale about The Great Turnip.

The story is about a farmer who planted a turnip that kept growing…and growing…and growing until it became a real giant of a turnip.  One day he decided to pull the turnip out of the ground.  He pulled and pulled, but it would not come out.

He asked his wife to help.  The wife and the farmer pulled and pulled, but the turnip still would not come out.

The wife asked a boy to help.  So the boy and the wife and the farmer pulled and pulled, but the turnip was still stuck in the ground.

And so the story carried on.  The boy called the girl, who then called the dog, who called the cat.  And the cat and the dog and the girl and the boy and the wife and the farmer pulled and pulled, but the turnip would not come out.

The cat next called the rat to help out.  And the rat and the cat and the dog and the girl and the boy and the wife and the farmer pulled and pulled…and finally the turnip came out of the ground.

The wife then cooked the turnip and everyone had wonderful turnip soup for dinner.

Often the story is told to illustrate the value of teamwork.  But in fact we could find not just one, but a total of five morals in the story.

  • The first moral is that if we all pull together (in the same direction), we can get things done which we will not be able to do individually. Yes, it is about the value of teamwork and synergy.
  • The second moral is that even natural enemies, like the cat the dog, and the mouse and the cat, can find it worth their while to work together. It is a matter of “enlightened self-interest”, a valuable idea for the workplace and the classroom.
  • The third moral is that until the rat, the smallest of them all, joined in, the turnip would not come out. It shows that everyone is important and valuable, even the smallest member of the team.  We must appreciate everyone one…no matter how small.
  • The fourth moral is that there is fair and just reward after the job is done. The farmer’s wife gave turnip soup to everyone, and not just her favourites. “Reward for work and work for reward” is an important principle.
  • And, finally, the fifth moral is: we must honour our word (give fair and just reward) and honour each other (respect and value every effort and every one).  It is a good way to conduct ourselves in life.

Honour is the foundation of trust, and trust is critical for long-term, beneficial relationships, whether the relationships be personal or business.

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