On your birthday, you usually expect other people will give you things—plenty of restaurants offer free treats for your big day.
But one kindhearted ice cream man had something different in mind when his own birthday came.
Jimmy Teng, from Singapore, is known to locals as “Uncle Jimmy.” But he’s not their biological uncle—that’s just what they traditionally call the elderly men who have worked the ice cream stands on the streets of Singapore for generations.
Teng, now in his 70s, is one of the last of his kind. But he shows no signs of slowing down, and drives his motorcycle to work every day.
“I’ve been here for 15 years. My daughter keeps telling me ‘Pa, just stop working,’ but I want to do it for as long as I can,” he told the BBC.
In fact, he’s keeping up with the times:
“I attended an event at NUS [National University of Singapore] and some students said they would help me set up a Facebook page,” he said. “My children taught me how to use it and now I update it by myself.”
With his 72nd birthday around the corner, he made a post that had everyone excited:
Best remedy for the hot weather – uncle Jimmy traditional ice cream!! Come celebrate my birthday with me at my usual…
That’s right: to mark his birthday on March 22, he gave out free ice cream.
And not just a few: he gave out 1,000 ice creams over the course of the day.
Naturally, a long line soon formed. Fans all over Singapore came out to claim their free treat, and to celebrate their “Uncle’s” birthday.
“By 5 pm everything was sold out,” Teng said. “Some people came after that and there was no more available so I told them to come back the next day, I’ll give it to them for free as a replacement.”
“Happy birthday, uncle,” one Twitter user wrote. “Not all heroes wear capes.”
It wasn’t the first time he’s done this: this is a yearly tradition that mark’s the vendor’s birthday.
“I’m so happy,” he told The New Paper in 2016, after marking his 70th birthday.
“I wouldn’t be this happy if I won the lottery!”
Giving away 1,000 ice creams—which go for a dollar each—is no cheap publicity stunt. It’s a true act of generosity, one that Teng insists is worth it for the joy it brings.
“I don’t think of it that way,” he told the BBC. “As long as people are happy, that’s OK.”
“Everyone in Singapore is so stressed. I thought to myself, life is short.”
He knows firsthand how hard life can be—and the joy and comfort kindness can offer:
“My wife passed away three years ago, before that I had to work to pay her [hospital] bills,” he said. “After she passed I wanted to give up my business, but after three months I found myself coming out and selling ice cream again.”
Teng’s kindness goes beyond giving out free dessert: his friend and customer, Haresh Vinshinda, told The New Paper how Teng lent him money several years ago after he lost his leg to diabetes.
“He’s supported me in many ways,” said Haresh. “When I’m sad, he’ll cheer me up. When I’ve got a problem, he’ll try to solve it.”
“He has a good heart for the less fortunate.”
And Teng has no plans on giving up any time soon.
“I’ll give [them] out every birthday, as long as I live,” Teng told the BBC.
“I feel happy here.”