For the past 14 years, 68-year-old Samuel Koh has been knocking on up to 500 doors in December. His mission is to remind parents to enrol their children for primary school. Liaison officers like him help to ensure that parents struggling financially do not deny their children an education. Mr Koh, a retired primary school teacher, hopes to ensure pathways to the future for these children till he can no longer walk.

Mr Koh is a one-man NGO. At an age when some geriatrics could be thinking of the afterlife, he is trying to build a better tomorrow for the young. Education being essential for a child to make his way in a brutally competitive world, it falls on society at large to see to it that Singapore's young are equipped with the skills and attitudes they need to survive. Society at large being but a collection of individuals with a stake in one another's lives, it falls on each person to contribute what he can to the collective destiny. Mr Koh is doing just this.

Others are trying to build a better future for people in their own way. Three retired grandfathers, battling clogged arteries and hypertension, have decided to cycle from Bangkok to Singapore to raise $300,000 for Filipinos here whose families were devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan. These superheroes are using their retirement to bring comfort to those whose lives were affected by a natural disaster.

To live, it has been said, is to leave traces. Singaporeans who try to bring about change for the better register the importance of taking responsibility for the world around them as they find it, instead of carping about the inevitability of fate or the frailty of human nature. They do not leave it to the state to take charge of society nor to the market to create a fairer world. They are not just agents of the future: They are the change they wish to see. Emulation is the greatest form of gratitude they can be given.