John Lui’s article about priority seating on public transport (‘Taking the reserved seat is a bummer’, July 15, P40) was as humorous as it was wise. Courtesy and graciousness, on public transport or elsewhere, cannot be enforced with signs or fines. These pro-social behaviors can only be encouraged.
John reminds us that every seat can be a priority/reserved seat, so long as the person sitting on it has a generous and giving heart. It is this spirit that must be encouraged, and all of us, whether sitting or standing, can play a part.
It is important to mind that even though commuters may not be conscious of their surroundings, it is always common courtesy to give up seats for those who appear to need the seat more than you do. If the person in the priority seat is unaware of a needier person, or unwilling to give up their comfort zone, every other seated passenger is faced with a choice. They can choose to ignore the situation, confront the errant commuter with nudges and glares, or they can give up their own seat. Only the last of these outcomes is the embodiment of graciousness.
If someone does give up their seat, whichever seat that might be, we should all encourage and affirm the good Samaritan with a smile or a kind word. It may seem a trivial thing, but knowing that an act of courtesy is appreciated and respected by ones’ neighbors and peers will go a long way towards making a habit out of graciousness.
In any event, it is worth repeating that a little graciousness will make our world a more pleasant place to live in.
Dr William Wan
Singapore Kindness Movement
First published in The Sunday Times – July 22, 2012