Dear Xander,  Self

Don’t Be Shy, Seriously

Some of you may have heard about this on my Facebook page. I reproduced my post here, with a second part of the incident that I haven’t shared.

Dear Xander,

Daddy’s going to tell you a story.

A blind lady is standing at a crowded bus stop in Clarke Quay. I walk up and ask if anyone is assisting her. She says no. So we introduce ourselves and talk a little while waiting for her bus.

Turns out she’s been standing at the same spot every weekday at 6pm for the last 3 months, waiting for a bus she cannot see, and most of the time, too shy to ask for help.

I tell her, “I’ll try to be here at this bus stop at 6pm every day, to help you get into your bus.”

This should be a lesson in compassion, but it isn’t. As far as your dad is concerned, the act is nothing out of the ordinary; it’s not done out of kindness. If anything, it’s a practical thing to offer for a person in need, from a person who can.

This is a lesson in being thick-skinned.

Today’s world doesn’t support shyness any more. We’re all so comfortable putting our entire lives on Facebook, Twitter and blogs – right down to what you’re eating and where you’re eating it – why not dispense with the shyness and just ask if someone needs help when you see they might need it, or ask for help when you really need it?

There is a second part to this story, with a different moral attached to it.

As the bus came and I guided her aboard, she tapped her EZ-Link card and proceeded to the one-person seat right behind the driver (I assume this is her preferred seat, as it is closest to the driver, who can inform her and guide her down when the bus has reached her destination).

Occupying the seat was a rather unkempt old man with a fair amount of bags and belongings. By the time I had tapped my EZ-Link card, the blind lady asked the old man if he could vacate the seat for her. Oddly, the old man looked flustered, and shuffled in his seat nervously, as though he wasn’t quite prepared to move. I was surprised, and as we waited for the old man to get his bearings, he motioned to the other one-person seat opposite his, and motioned for the young woman seated there to vacate her seat instead, to which the young woman immediately obliged.

I didn’t think much of it; he was after all an old man, and by the amount of things he was carrying around it, it seemed more practical to find another passenger who had less trouble moving. As the blind lady got seated and the bus moved off, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see the old man looking at me apologetically.

It took a couple of seconds to realise, the old man had tapped me with the arm he had; his other arm was missing, and by the looks of the bandaged remnant, recently amputated. I quickly smiled and reassured him that everything was okay, then proceeded to kick myself mentally for being blind to the fact that there was more than 1 disabled person on the bus.

There are always people out there who will need help, more people than you’d expect, and more help than you think. While this might sound a little daunting, remember this: you were born in good health, all limbs attached, a good head on your shoulders and a good heart in your soul (your mother and I am constantly trying to make sure of that). When someone needs help, you help. Don’t wait to be asked, because too often people don’t ask. Don’t look the other way, when you know it’s within your ability and power. Don’t assume someone else will do it, because for all you know, everyone else is assuming the same thing, and then no one will do it.

So help when help is needed, and ask for help when you need it. Don’t be shy – it’s a horrible justification to shun a time of need.

And take it one step further – be conscious of who and what is around you, and help when you can, not when you’re asked to. Because sometimes people can’t see that you’re there to help.



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