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National Service Reflections (Part 2)

by bro Cornelius Lee

The Three Masons

“A man walked past 3 Masons, and he asked the first mason, “what are you doing?”. The first replied, “I’m laying bricks.” He then asked the second mason the same question. The second replied, “I’m building a wall.” He then asked the third mason the same question. The third replied, “I’m building a house.””

This little narrative was told to us by the commanding officer of the battalion twice; the first time during his first personal engagement with us in our bunks, and the second time during his last personal engagement with us in our bunks. The main idea of this narrative is the different mindsets or attitudes we need to have when doing our jobs. In this case, the commanding officer, in telling this narrative, is trying to help us figure out what mindset we should have while serving NS.

The first mason was short-sighted in his approach to his job of laying bricks. He would think that it’s a waste of time, losing his motivation and eventually not continue his work. This refers to those who treat NS as a waste of time and have a very bad attitude throughout the two years because they are forced to complete it. Trying to do the bare minimum and avoiding work as much as possible, learning nothing in the two years.

The second mason is only slightly better than the first mason in his attitude towards his job, having a small but decently sized goal of building a wall. This mason is probably the guy that just does his job and is only looking forward to the ORD date, and after receiving his pink card, has no goals and finds himself lost, not knowing what to do for the rest of his life.

Whereas the third mason was long-sighted in his job, understanding that he was eventually going to build a house. This mason is motivated, has an end goal in mind, and stays positive until the end. The third mason is probably the one who will take the two years seriously and try to learn and improve from NS, make good use of his time, and, maybe, be able to apply his experiences in the future after ORD.

If you think about it, this narrative is similar to the parable of the sower. (Matt 13:1-9) In the parable of the sower, we have four soils, but let us focus on three of the soils: the stony ground, the thorny ground, and the good ground. From the explanation of the parable (Matt 13:18-23), we understand the different types of soil. Compared to the parable and the narrative, the stony ground is similar to the first mason, where the work of God is put on low priority, and when it becomes troublesome, his motivation fizzles out and he falls away. The thorny ground is like the second mason, who has some motivation for doing the work of God, but when something else that is more interesting to him comes along, he will put the work behind him and chase after it. While the good soil is like the third mason, who receives the word of God gladly and will continue to work hard towards the goal that is promised, which is eternal life in heaven.

Brethren, which mason are we in doing the work of the church? Are we the first who try to avoid as much troublesome work as possible by doing the bare minimum? Are we the second group that is motivated for a while but then becomes distracted by other things once the work is completed? Or are we the third mason who has his sights on a goal and is willing to work hard and maintain motivation to achieve his goal? Let us do everything in the name of God. (Col 3:17)


Tough times don't last, but tough men do.

In conclusion, I believe that there is no such thing as a bad experience, there are only good experiences. It is how you reflect and handle the experience which turns a bad experience into a good one.

In my opinion, while many do believe NS to be a waste of two years, I do not believe that NS is a waste of time. It might be tough, but through this tough experience, I have become tougher, learning as much and reflecting over and over again, to improve myself to become a better person.

Of course, there are many other things that happened during the two years that are not written in this article but these are written that I hope to be able to share with you the experiences and what I have learnt in the past two years that we might continue to reflect on our own lives and to grow together as a church serving our God.

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