It is easy to see why PM Lee had to complete the National Day Rally speech. He needed to finish what he had started. It is not called a rally speech for nothing and his persistence rallied not just the people back after a brief reception, but it also rallied their hearts.
It has become a nationwide shock when the sequence of events at 9:20 pm were a trip over his words, an eerie silence, a body slant, a flurry of aides rushing to the stage, an audible gasp, an advised intermission, and an early reception.
The whole nation practically kept vigil for one hour, waiting and praying for news of PM Lee's condition. Social media went wild with speculation. And assurances were issued to calm the crowd.
But he fought back. PM Lee stumbled because of exhaustion. And at 10:40 pm he returned and said, "I've never had so many doctors look at me all at once. They think I'm all right but anyway I'm going to have a full check-up after this. But before that I'd like to finish my speech."
Ironically, that was the highlight yesterday - not so much the speech. Yet, it spoke volume. It lifted hearts.
PM Lee said, "Our politics must unite the country and uphold our multiracial society." And when he walked back on stage, for that brief moment, he united the nation - both in speech and action.
Lesson? Just one.
Just before he completed his speech, PM Lee mentioned about a divine encounter. He said that he was once asked about what he'd wish for if God had granted him three wishes. This is what he said yesterday.
For his first wish, PM Lee would ask to be blessed with divine discontentment. He hopes to look for ways to improve, to progress. He doesn't want to be satisfied with the status quo and rest on his laurels. On the contrary, he wants to be driven to do better, to do more for Singapore.
His second wish was to ask God to grant him the wisdom to count his blessings. He wants to be reminded of how far we as a nation have come and how blessed we have been. The journey itself has been an inspiration and the distance covered thus far is our source of pride and encouragement.
I guess being able to count our blessings is to be grateful always so that we will not take anything for granted. And it also gives us a perspective to embrace the progress we have fought so hard for as one united people regardless of race, language and religion.
PM Lee concluded by saying that with these two wishes fulfilled, he doesn't need a third wish. The two wishes would be enough. With divine discontentment and the wisdom to count one's blessings, a third wish would serve no purpose. He said that no material wealth or riches can take their place.
He explained that wealth can be squandered, but with a spirit to always desire to improve and a heart of thanksgiving, Singaporeans will then be able to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation for generations to come.
Somehow, his two wishes kind of remind me of this Reinhold Niebuhr's quote: "God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things that should be changed, and wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."
With a little imagination, his first wish about divine discontentment is the courage to change part and his second wish about counting one's blessings is the serenity to accept part. And his decline of a third wish fits reassuringly in the part about the wisdom to know the difference (about what truly matters in life and what doesn't). Cheerz.