My first visit to London was in 1973 and I remember how impressed I was with the London Tube when Singapore was still decades away from having our own MRT. 2 days ago, I took the Tube downtown. It was not crowded as it wasn’t during the peak hours. I noticed that there were signs identifying priority seats, almost exactly like what we have in Singapore except that the signs were also imprinted on the cushions of the designated seats.
A young man boarded my cabin, avoided seating on the priority seat and sat next to it. A couple of stops later, a young lady boarded and even though there were other seats available, she chose the priority seat that the young man kept opened for those in need. As soon as she sat down, she was absorbed with her smart phone. So what is new under the sun?
|Interesting signs in London|
At another station, I saw something much more interesting – “Art on the Underground” featuring “Acts of Kindness”. The poster reads, “Acts of Kindness is part of Art on the Underground’s Central Line series of temporary commissions throughout 2011 and 2012. The series is supported by the National Lottery though Arts Council England.” It further announces that “Artist Michael Landy’s project Acts of Kindness is a celebration of generosity and compassion on the Tube. Look out for stories appearing in Central Line stations and trains”.
|Artist Michael Landy’s project |
Acts of Kindness
I thought to myself, what a brilliant idea. With 1.2 billion passengers in 2011/12, there must be many kind stories to tell. Telling positive stories of kindness resonates with me because we need to be reminded that while unkindness often captures the imagination of the press and the public, it is still by far an infraction of the minority. I wish the project every success it deserves.
That same evening, I took the Tube to visit my god-daughter and her family in another part of London for dinner. It was during peak hours. Standing on a very busy platform, I asked a gentleman to confirm if I was standing on the right platform. Without saying a word, he pulled an Underground map from his vest pocket, studied it intently as the print is rather microscopic, and then turned to me in response, “Indeed, you are, old chap! It’s nine stations away. Have a jolly journey, old chap!” I smiled and thanked him. “A jolly kind chap,” I thought to myself.
The train soon arrived and it was crowded. I notice that there were no lines drawn on the platform for queuing, but nobody blocked the entrance when the doors were opened. People were streaming out without anyone trying to push in. We all got in all right, but every seat was taken. A young man was reading his evening free papers. When he lifted his head momentarily and saw me, he immediately jumped up from his seat and offered it to me. I accepted it gratefully. He smiled, and continued to read his papers standing up.
I met up with some friends the following day. Jimmy is an Asian Londoner visited Singapore last month. When I recounted the story of the young man who gave up his seat for me, he said, “Did I ever tell you that my wife and I took the MRT every day for 16 days when we were in Singapore? And did you know that every day for 16 days, we always had a seat because there was always someone who offered a seat to us?”
What can I say to that? Common humanity? There’s nothing new under the sun? Whatever it is, I am ever convinced that the milk of kindness is in all of us. Look around us, and celebrate what is kind; let that contribute to the joy of living.
|Please stand on the right|
|A little courtesy won't harm you|