It's my life!

Would you stop to help?

A blind man blocking the path, groping for something. And, you are there. Would you stop to help?

First, let me say, I have a headache today. I blame it partly on my uncomfortable contact lenses, but my friend, Swati made me question its cause. Am I really unwell because I’m unwell, or is it a symptom of an internal frustration?

I do realize that my current motivation level is lower than say, in January. My emotions are more often than not, just blank. Music, reading, and going out with friends do give me the lift but, I’m rarely excited these days. I wish I can say that this is the Buddhist way of living – to live in perfect equanimity and to not let daily events affect your equilibrium – but I fear that this extreme lack of emotion is an indication that I’m tired. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not depressed (I’ve been in worse states), but I’m just disappointed by several events that have taken a toll of me in seeing and working with people.

I started, more than ever, to feel the unfairness in society.

That might be funny thing to say by a Malaysian Chinese because I should have felt more injustice in Malaysia where minorities are treated like second-class citizens. More relevant to a student like me, governmental scholarships are given to less-deserving students because of the Bumiputera status. But, in all honesty, I didn’t really care about my not getting the public scholarships.

And, I did have a taste of it in my first year of hall-life. The corruption among the student leaders in their bid for the ‘hottest’ room made me so disillusioned that I ran away to another residence. I thought I put it behind me. I assumed if I had just stayed away from such strives and focused on ‘safe’ topics like academia or student organizations fighting for a worthy cause, I won’t experience this again.

I was naïve. How can you ever run away from politics when people are everywhere?

Then, last week, I encountered two separate occasions that disappointed me further. Which brings me back to my original question: Will you stop to help?

Last Thursday, I was at Clementi MRT station to buy items for my baking session with friends. To those unfamiliar with this area, from the train station to Clementi Mall, there is only a narrow pathway just enough for only two persons to walk side-by-side. The station is usually crowded, but the passageway is usually smooth for us to continue walking non-stop. But, that day, it was different.

Standing at the back of the queue, I bent my head sideways to understand the reason behind the slow-moving human traffic. Then, I saw.

There was a man kneeling down on the ground, blocking the path. I could see that he was blind as I saw his walking stick. He was groping around for something. Pedestrians were staring at him doing that, but that’s all they did. They stared, and they all just walk on by.

I found it very disheartening, and very surprising. Like I said many posts ago, I have read Robert Cialdini’s ‘Influence’ and I took the CPR/AED short course for NUS students. Both taught me that in cases of emergency in public areas, you must always point to someone in the crowd to help you, or else, no one will step forward to help. But, as an observer, I was still so disappointed.

I’m not writing this post to boast that I helped the man. If I wanted to, I could have told my friends countless of times, but I didn’t. I just thought bottling this up is eating me up inside causing me to feel sick inside-out. I still remember my helping him put the three water bottles into a plastic bag, all the while, trying to sell me tissue-papers, and pedestrians still kept staring at him, and now me, and once again, no one stopped. They just strolled by.

That was Thursday. Then, on Saturday, I got another dose of how people can be so calculative.

Can’t we just help and provide a service to people without being too particular on how much we are getting paid? And, why must we be told to help? Why can’t we just help?

I get it. Not everyone wants and thinks helping others is an important goal in life. I have had endless debates on the vagueness of ‘good’ and the definition of a ‘good human being’. Who determines helping others is ‘good’? And, who says selfishness is ‘bad’?

I know I can never actively change how people around me think. Their values are their own to formulate. I have friends and acquaintances who can give me an entirely logical and clever reasoning of why individualistic behaviour serve to better society. And, yes, it works for them.

It is hard to remain optimistic to be nice (I’m not going to sprout out terms like ‘kind’ or ‘compassion’ for fear of being too preachy) when I see that and other acts like watching people purposely acting like they are sleeping in the trains or buses to not give their seats to another needy passenger. But, I have one aspect working in my favour. Each time I get disappointed by these acts done due to lack of empathy, I get to meet even more people who are sick of this too.

We are a bunch of idealistic people, who might or might not reach the heights of society in terms of wealth, power and influence because ironically, we are not selfish enough. But, one thing that bonds us together, stranger or no stranger, is that we just can’t stand seeing this being done.

This post is for me and others feeling the frustration of seeing this and feeling helpless. For me, and the circle of friends and family I have, we know that this is not how we want to live our life.

I know whenever I write or say these kind of things, I’m opening myself up to potentially hurtful remarks like calling me a hypocrite, and I admit I’m not perfect. I do say or do insensitive things. But, I like that whenever opportunity lands on my hands, I’ll grab whatever chance I get to help.

Even if it’s just something small and inconspicuous like helping the librarian by sorting the book I’ve read into its proper position.


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