Scolded For Trying To Be Good =(

I got "scolded" for trying to be a good person.

A few evenings ago, the train was packed as usual, and a lady around her 20s entered through the door. She had a baby strapped to her small body, a big sling bag on one shoulder and a big recyclable bag on the other hand.

I stood holding the metal pole at the corner-pls-give-up-to-those-in-need-seat, and she was about 2 steps away from me, facing the door.

After glancing at the passengers on the seats, they either had their eyes closed or looking down, definitely don't look like they would notice the woman and her baby. And so I decided to tap on the healthy looking guy nearest to me (who was also sitting at the corner-pls-give-up-to-those-in-need-seat), who I think was in his late 30s or so, to ask him to give up his seat.

*Tap tap tap*. My fingers gently touched his hand 3 times.

No response.

*Tap tap tap* again.

No response.

Errrrr, sleep until so soundly ah? But as I bent lower, I thought I saw his eyes flickered a bit leh.

Just then, the lady sitting beside our leading man knew what i was thinking of and offered her seat (actually, it wasn't as straightforward, but nevermind, she's just the supporting character here). So we got our lady with baby to maneuver amongst the human obstacles and my luggage on the floor, to her seat successfully.

Naturally, I thanked this kind soul who was willing to sacrifice, and then I half rolled my eyes to our gentleman who was still motionless in his seat, his eyes still looking down, or closed - I don't know which.

End of story? I thought so.

10 seconds later, the man suddenly dug his wallet from his back pocket, took a card out from his wallet, and shoved the card in my face. I had to lean my head slightly back to focus my eyes on what he was trying to show me.

"Handicapped Welfare Society". These were the only words I managed to see before he retracted the card.

I smiled slightly and nodded my head to him, acknowledging that I understood what he was trying to tell me. It wasn't that he didn't want to give up his seat, he himself was also handicapped. Ah, I felt a slight tinge of guilt in my heart.

How could I be so judgmental? It is not in my purview to judge another person, because I am not perfect myself. As what is written in the Bible, 'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her' (John 8:7). I used to pretend to sleep just so that I wouldn't see anyone whom I need to give up my seat to, until I heeded the government's call to be more socially conscious and responsible.


While processing my own behaviour and thoughts, I then wondered how exactly he is handicapped as he looked perfectly fine to me. I thought maybe he was deaf or mute, since we had only been communicating through actions. But... If he was deaf or mute, he still wouldn't need the seat as much as someone else who had physical constrains, right?

Suddenly, he stood up. I got a shock, although I didn't show it of course. I swear he could read my mind. But I was more bewildered at what he said.

"Do you want me to give up my seat to you?" His eyes looked intently down at mine, his voice soft but harsh.

Huh? "Noo, I just wanted to..."

"Do you know I am handicapped?" He interrupted. "I am amputated from my knee down. I am the most rightful person to sit in this seat." His right index finger pointed forcefully to the now empty seat.

I decided it was my turn to cut him, "yes you showed me your card. I wouldn't know before that, thank you for showing me your card, but..."

"I can give up my seat to you, do you want? You can sit." He was getting a tad more agitated now, and he obviously wasn't listening to me at all.

Hey, although I am half a head shorter and definitely skinnier than you, doesn't mean I'll be scared of you. I had been very polite in trying to explain to you. Good thing I am generally a calm person and I value harmony over ego/face.

Unfortunately I never completed my explanation, cause he plonked himself back down, with his eyes cast on the white train floor once again.

The lady with the baby, sitting beside him, looked up at me, and I at her. I caught her 'oh dear' look, and I just smiled to her and half shook my head, half rolled my eyes, signaling to her that "it's ok, don't bother, he's weird".

And then there was peace. Or so I thought.

30 seconds later, while our train was travelling in the tunnel, the man stood up and left his seat. He was somewhere behind me, I couldn't see him and I thought he was getting ready to alight. I felt a bit uncomfortable, but I just told myself I'm being too sensitive.

The train reached the next station and stopped. The passenger who was leaning against the glass panel  in front of me alighted. Our protagonist reappeared, took the place of the passenger, and leaned against the glass panel in front of me. What I was really appalled at, was that he actually 'diao' me! For the foreigners who might be reading this and have no idea what 'diao' means, it's 'giving the dirty look'.

Almost instinctively, I looked behind me to see if there was space, I so didn't want to stand in front of this man and be subjected to further abuse. And when I turned back, a woman perhaps in her 40s, looked at me and pointed to the space beside her, indicating to me to go over. I promptly lifted my luggage and migrated there. Before she alighted a few stops later, she patted me on my hand and said, "be careful ah, you take care of yourself".

I was thankful for her assurance, that she dismissed my self-doubt, wondering if I did anything wrong by trying to get a seat for the lady with her baby.

I must say I had indeed been too quick to judge the man when he didn't respond to give up his seat. If he had never revealed his physical condition, I would have kept on thinking he was another selfish person who valued his own comfort more than others' who were in greater need. 

How many times have we been in similar situations? The grumpy cashier aunty at NTUC might have quarreled with her son or daughter in the morning over finances. The rude teenage boy who bumped into you and did not say sorry might have just flunked his exam and is preparing to face the music back home.

And how many times have we also been like that? We were so tired, deep in our own thoughts, thinking about what had happened to us earlier, that we did not notice any elderly or pregnant lady entering the train. We were so occupied with talking with our friend, that we walked like turtles and blocked the traffic.

But of course, these should not be excuses for being rude or socially irresponsible either. If all of us take it upon ourselves to care for others, our society will always grow to be more gracious. So as much as possible, let's be more aware of what's happening around us, and to put others before ourselves.

'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others' (Phil 2:3-4)

Having said that, I also realised the man is facing more than just physical issues. It seemed to me that he was self-absorbed, hurt and insecure, because of his condition. I don't blame him, but it's not healthy either and it could bring more harm to himself and to the people around him.

To this gentleman:
I'm sorry for dismissing you without knowing all the facts, and I appreciate that you informed me why you chose not to give up your seat. I think it's perfectly fine and legitimate and I respect your decision. Afterall, I also think that you deserve the seat more than the person next to you! However, I believe you have misunderstood my intention, I didn't want your seat, I wanted the lady who was carrying a baby and 2 bags to have a seat. And I definitely did not appreciate the harsh way you talked to me and did not listen to my explanation. Please don't take things personally, otherwise there will be more miscommunications and misunderstandings. I just pray that there will always be joy and peace in your heart.