Thursday, June 10, 2010

Train-ing for Kindness

She shuffled onto the train, forty-ish, with languor in her steps and a slump in her shoulders. I glanced up from my Moleskine scribblings, and at once, I could tell from her eyes that she had a very long day. And she didn't quite stand so much as hang from the grab-ring that dangled from the train's roof. Leaning her chin on the same arm that she used for holding the grab-ring, she stared nowhere in particular - a weary and burdened soul.

Should I give her my seat? I felt embarrassed, 'cos I didn't know how she would respond. She seemed like she was in that awkward age group that was just a few years too young to qualify as "old enough" to give up your seat to. But she looked so tired... To give her my seat or not?

"Dhoby Ghaut!" Hmm. How?

"Somerset!" She looked at her watch, and lapsed back into a pensive half-closed gaze. I guessed she was probably rushing back home. Perhaps she had children to take care of, dinner to cook, clothes to wash...

Ok. Lord, give me courage to do the right thing. Why am I so afraid of what others might think? And even if she is surprised by the offer of a seat and perhaps even get offended by my gesture, thinking that I'm thinking that she's so old... ah, what does it matter ultimately?

Courage. To do what is good. No matter what others may think, in the final analysis, God sees the heart and the act.

Wisdom. It struck me that I could be discreet. To minimize my embarrassment, and also perhaps hers too. Yet to let her know that it's an act of kindness to her, that she might know that there still exists kindness in this tired world.

"Orchard!" I got my bag ready. She saw, and also got her bag ready. Ah. She needs the seat, after all. Thank God my "sacrifice" is not in vain then. And I got off, and faced the exit. She sat down. I carefully moved to the centre grab-pole.

And those who got off, got off. But I stayed back, because, well, I was on my way to Ang Mo Kio.

So I casually stood there, when out of the corner of my eyes, I saw her eyes for the first time open - in surprise. She was looking at me standing there, not having gotten off.

But before anything else happened, a huge squeeze of bodies stood in-between her and me. And we were blocked from each other's views.

But I felt glad to have given up my seat for a fellow weary traveller on the daily commute of life. Unspoken, yes, but I think it was yet another step in growing in courage and wisdom - courage to do what is good in God's eyes, and wisdom to do it right in the eyes of men. Yesterday, it was Mr. Loud. Today, it was Mrs. Tired. And what would Tomorrow bring?

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