Exercising care

I was on the bus the other day when an elderly woman got on and was struggling to find her fare. She eventually presented a transfer, which the driver dismissed as being two days old, and instead of motoring on, waited at a green traffic light for the woman to produce her fare. The woman said she didn’t want to hold up the bus and got off.  

While now stopped at a red light, another passenger came forward and chided the driver, claiming she could have just let the senior on for free. The driver’s replied that she hadn’t told the woman to get off the bus. The passenger then called out to the woman, who was still standing on the pavement scrambling for her fare and she came back on the bus – for free -and we helped to get her settled in a seat. She was immensely relived and grateful.

What struck me so dramatically about this incident was the bus driver’s complete indifference to the woman’s plight. While we all have rules and regulations to follow in our jobs, there should be a common sense provision allowing leniency in extenuating circumstances, particularly to help those in need. Echoing Gandhi’s proclamation, that ‘the greatness of a nation can be judged by how it treats its weakest member,’ it is an aspiration that we should all strive for as a society, as well as in our own daily lives.

Though I often see incidents of people helping out, I would say that overall in my lifetime, I’ve witnessed a real erosion in people’s efforts to care for one another. It’s interesting that during the pandemic, public addresses were made urging people to look in on their neighbours and elderly, as if this is something that would not have occurred to us naturally.

I do feel that we all have the desire within us to care for our fellow human beings and that these days, it often gets expressed more readily in the virtual realm, through social media campaigns and Go Fund Me sites. But it seems to me that we’ve lost the natural instinct to care for one another in our everyday interactions. Caring is like a muscle that needs to be exercised, and when we switch off to anything but our own immediate circumstances and are not present to those around us, indifference or apathy often settles in.

Multiplied many times over, it is this apathy which is eroding our society and destroying our world because when we cease to care, we cease to act. Conversely, when we care about something, we’re invested in protecting it or improving its outcome. The biggest challenge in today’s world is in getting people to care, and to turn that focused measure of concern into productive, transformative action.

Caring means reaching out and doing what you know is right – at times extending beyond the stated rules. If we all made the effort to care a little bit more, our positive actions would continue to reverberate out and create a more peaceful, loving and beautiful world.

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