If one expects gratitude and reciprocation
of one’s kindness from others,
one should expect disappointment too.
In Singapore subway trains, there used to be a sign above certain seats in each carriage, which reads, ‘Priority Seat: Be considerate. Give up this seat to a passenger with special needs.’ The graphics show the schematics of an old person, a pregnant lady, and an adult with a child. Later, it was changed to a a sign that simply read ‘Reserved Seating’, with the additional graphic of a person with clutches to represent the physically challenged. As there is no clear guideline or law as to how either sign is to be interpreted, they have always been (dis)regarded in a variety of ways, according to the individual’s conscience. Such seats are perceived and treated differently in other countries too. Some local commuters stay absolutely clear of those seats, even when no one in need is around, while they themselves have nowhere else to sit. They would rather stand. This is interesting, as if they see value in practising generosity to absent passengers, while depriving themselves? Is this necessary? If the ones prioritised for are not around, and one needs a seat, isn’t the seat ‘prioritised’ or ‘reserved’ for oneself then? It might be argued that they are respecting who the seats are intended for, even when they are not around. Is this respectable discipline, the setting of a good example, or inflexible blind adherence? You decide!
However, when one sits on a special seat, one should be especially alert to the possible boarding of another who needs it more. For instance, one should not fall asleep! Perhaps some choose not to ever take these seats to avoid such ‘stress’? Then again, in a truly civilised society, every seat should be readily relinquished by anyone for the another. The ‘need’ for such designated seats is actually a symptom of a society not being spontaneous enough in acts of compassion? Of course, it doesn’t mean everyone lacks empathy, but that there are ‘enough’ of the unmindful or inconsiderate to require such seats, though their purpose is still easily neglected or ignored by them. Yet, there is a process of evolution needed, for nudging limited grace to be more gracious. Only with greater mindfulness, can there be the arising of compassion, when there is recognition of and response to the needs of others. Putting ourselves in the positions of others is how the ability to empathise arises. Just as the less in need already appreciate having a seat on a packed train, another with greater need would appreciate having the seat that much more. I look forward to the day when no one frets suffering on public commute due to the bad faith of fellow passengers. Surely, seat-hoggers would appreciate the sooner arrival of this day too, when they too become the ‘needy’.
Recently, there is a case caught on video, of a woman, somewhat above middle age in appearance, who bickered with a younger woman, even after the latter offered the special seat she was on. She ranted on, as if having the seat wasn’t good enough. With her dyed hair, she doesn’t look clearly old or in need, though she strongly expected herself to be seen as so? Well, some elderly folks detest being seen as old! That’s problem one. Maybe she shouldn’t keep her looks unnaturally ‘youthful’? She sees the voluntary kindness of being given the seat as a right instead of privilege. That’s problem two. She lacked gratitude and was full of resentment instead. That’s problem three. Life is already hard enough for everyone. Not only should we help each other out, we should appreciate any help given too. How desperately a person needs a seat is actually difficult to discern. One could be dead tired after a long day’s work. One could be sick. One could be deeply troubled… Yes, what constitutes ‘special needs’ is not constrained by the signs’ suggestions. No one really knows how much others sacrifice for oneself. This is why we should always be grateful for any assistance freely offered. When we freely offer our help, however, we should be grateful for the opportunity to be of service, and not even expect thanks, for if we do, surely, our help wasn’t really free after all.
If you appreciate others
helping one another unconditionally,
why not join in unconditionally?
Do You See The Invisible Bodhisattvas In Your Life?