I’ve always thought of myself as an empathetic commuter. But what I learned at Caring SG Commuters’ Caring Carnival revealed that I was only scratching the surface. I realised that there’s more to being a Caring Commuter, and that there’s much more that I – and others – can and should be doing.
I was an invited guest to the launch event of Caring Commuter Week, held in conjunction with the Public Transport Workers Appreciation Day at the new One Punggol Community Centre. The event space included an area for the Caring Carnival, consisting of booths set up by the various Public Transport Operators (PTO), as well as Caring SG Commuters, to promote their respective messages of creating caring journeys for commuters.
Acting Minister for Transport, Mr Chee Hong Tat, who was the Guest-of-Honour, took the stage to share how the actions of various public transport workers and commuters had made a difference to the journey of others.
After watching the prize presentation to winners of the children’s art competition, themed “I can be a Caring Commuter Hero”, I went to check out their artworks.
The 20 artworks on display were impressive. Through the lens of these young eyes, the concept of “caring commuter” was interpreted in various colourful scenes, one of which stood out to me in particular.
In her submission, 10-year-old He Zi Yi showed an MRT passenger letting an older passenger board the train first, while other passengers waited patiently in line. It was a simple act, but it struck me because it showed the caring commuter actively putting someone else’s needs before hers. It was also interesting how she had depicted other passengers to show that we can collectively be caring commuters.
I asked Zi Yi what inspired her art, and she said, “I want to show others that a little help can go a long way. Helping others is a happy thing to do.”
Going Above and Beyond
I ruminated on the young artist’s words as I caught one of the recipients of the Richard Magnus Award for the Outstanding Caring Commuter to have a chat about his thoughts on his act of care.
Mr Kelvin Tan shared that he had stepped off his morning commute to perform CPR on a passenger who had collapsed on the platform. He told me he decided to help the passenger because he had knowledge of CPR, so he felt confident that he could be of assistance.
Would he have made that same decision if he didn’t know CPR? Kelvin replied honestly, “It’s hard to say. I think I would have done the same, but maybe I would have helped in a different way.”
Then there was Mr Ganesh, one of the Caring Commuter Award winners. While commuting to work, a teenage boy in the same carriage as him had fainted and injured his head hard enough that it started bleeding. Mr Ganesh assisted the boy onto the platform, and stayed by his side until the paramedics arrived.
When I asked Mr Ganesh why he chose to help, he said the teenager was about the same age as his own son. Seeing the boy in trouble, his paternal instincts kicked in naturally.
After talking to these two caring commuters, I realised that it didn’t matter what their motivations were. What did matter was that they, and all the other award recipients, had made the conscious and spontaneous decision to help another person, regardless of their own comfort or the situation they were in.
This got me thinking: was that what it takes to be a Caring Commuter?
Care to Make a Difference
I consider myself a considerate commuter. However, my definition of “caring” (like most other commuters, I suspect) would probably mean basic acts, like not cutting the queue, not talking loudly on the phone, not blocking the train doors, etc. But these acts don’t require me to put in much effort. These were “passive” acts that merely required me to NOT do something.
After today, one thing was clear to me – that’s just not enough. I have to do something.
Firstly, I will draw inspiration from the award recipients, and find it within myself to say, “Yes, I will help that person”, no matter how self-conscious I feel.
Secondly, I will arm myself with the relevant knowledge and skills, like CPR, or interacting with people with invisible disabilities, so that I know how to help.
Thirdly, I will actively play my part to be a caring commuter, because all of us – regardless of age, race, or background – can and should open our hearts to help others, in any way.
As the crowd began to fill the event space, and started to take part in the various booth activities, I reflected on what the award winners said about the award. Mr Kelvin Tan said he felt honoured by it; Mr Ganesh appreciated the pat on the back. For their selfless acts, I felt that it was well-deserved.
I hope that I have what it takes to follow in their examples. Sure, it doesn’t have to be a big gesture like saving someone’s life; it can be something small, like letting someone else go first. But what it does take is an active decision on my part to make the effort.
So, yes, I can care more. And I hope many others will do too!