On Being Considerate

I ride the train every day. When I have a seat (which is rare after work), I always make sure to look around and check for a) disabled or old individuals, b) people overburdened with bags or children or c) people falling asleep on their feet. If I am to spot one nearby, I make eye contact and offer my seat. Or nudge them if they don’t see me. Most of the time the person kindly declines, but they always add, “Most people never offer.”
…I don’t feel special or better for trying to ease someone else’s day. I feel hopeful that someday someone will do that for me.

I’m a young, 20-something girl in college who is tired at the end of the day, but who is also healthy and strong.

Someday, any day in the future actually, that fact will change. I won’t be young. I won’t be strong. I won’t be well. I will be tired no matter how much I rest, I will be sick whether I can afford medicine or not, and I will live in a world where the vast majority of the population will be too busy checking trivial Facebook updates on their smartphones to notice the shaking in my knees as I stand in a crowded train.

I am considerate to those less fortunate than me because the difference between me and them is one second. In that one second I could contract a terrible, debilitating disease, an inherited illness lying dormant in my body might start showing symptoms, a drunk driver could run the red light as I’m walking home, I could be harmed by anything or anyone because human beings are fragile.

Human beings are fragile, but frailty is not always bad. It means that a single moment of suffering could change my life, but also that my small moments of kindness are changing the lives of people I meet. To build a better future one must build a better self.

PS: Just because a train has a “designated” area for the old or disabled to seat at, it doesn’t mean you should let them stand when those seats are full. To remain sitting when someone needs your seat is to ask for a world where you will be left standing when you’re older. Age comes to us all.

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