Giving Thanks: I fear that far too many people have no familiarity – or even empathy – with what it means to be poor.

November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks


Tuesday morning, I got a call about a girl — now a woman — whom I had gone to grade school with. She was gravely ill. Cancer. It had spread to her brain, I was told. From where, it wasn’t clear. She was on life support. By early afternoon her childhood friend and next-door neighbor had posted on Facebook: “This isn’t good bye, it’s just see u later. God saw ur suffering n decided u should suffer no more.”The woman with the cancer was dead. She was 45.

The news snapped the holiday cheer out of me. I realized that I, like so many, get so caught up in the torrent of dinners and parties and sales and gifts this time of year that I sometimes forget how truly ephemeral and precious life is, that life itself is the gift.

And I forget how truly blessed I have been by whatever gods there may be. It doesn’t mean that there haven’t been troubles and trials. There have. But I have had it in me to overcome. And for the mere fact of having enough and to all the people in my life who have informed my character and given me courage, I need to give a measure of thanks. So, here goes:

I’m thankful for the basic things, like food and shelter and warmth when it is cold and medicine when I am sick. I grew up staring poverty squarely in the face, but I fear that far too many have no familiarity — or even empathy — with what it means to be poor in this country, or in any country.

Poverty is a diabolical predicament that not only makes scarce one’s physical comforts, but drains away one’s spiritual strength. It damages hopes and dreams, and having deficits among those things is when the soul begins to die.

I am thankful for a loving mother who hasn’t always gotten things right, but who taught me how to grow in grace and learn from getting things wrong. She taught me what it means to live selflessly and without pride, and to find joy in giving joy.

I’m thankful for the folks at whose knees I spent my preschool days being imbued with wisdom long before I knew what wisdom was — gnarled hands moving gracefully through the air the way a fish’s fins move through water, gently touching my shoulder or grabbing my hands and steering me clear of danger.

I’m thankful for the teachers who saw me when I felt invisible, who reached through my sorrow and my sadness and, in that darkness, lit a fire in me. These are teachers who to this day encourage me like family more than faculty.

They are teachers like Mrs. Dawson, who calls me after every one of my television appearances, and says, “Hello baby, this is your grandma.” She continues with some version of: “We saw you. We were looking right at you. Everyone in town is proud of you. We love you.”

They are teachers like Mrs. Thomas — now down in health, but still up in spirit — whom I called last month. She remembered my first weeks in her fourth grade class after I’d changed schools: “You hardly let go of my skirt hem.” I didn’t recall that, and I asked her how she could. She responded without skipping a beat, “Charles, you never forget your babies.”

I’m thankful for these teachers who refuse to release me, who continue to inculcate me with love and encouragement, teachers whom I will spend the whole of my life attempting to honor.

I’m thankful for my three beautiful children who amaze me daily with their development into smart, honest, loving people, and who remain my reason for rising when I ache and pushing forward when I would otherwise stop.

I’m thankful for great friends and the love of family, the deepest bonds of earthly connection, who provide the greatest defense when the storms of life rage and the walls of the self are buffeted.

I’m thankful for the spirit and resilience and fortitude of this country’s unbreakable slaves of the not-too-distant past, whose blood courses through my veins, whose dreams I live, whose lives I honor.

I am thankful that my work is my passion, and that what I do for pay I would probably do for free.

And, I am thankful for all of you, the regular readers of my columns — and the new ones as well — who affirm me, and challenge me, and chastise me. In the end, you make my voice clearer and my resolve stronger.

Thank you all.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: