Have My Seat


My new years resolution was to be nicer, and I think I've made quite a substantial effort to be conscious of it. I have been feeling more giving lately. I'm recognizing situations in which I benefit and in response I ask myself, can I give back?

Funny enough, that's what my mom lectured me about most. She lectured my older sister about lacking confidence, she lectured my little sister about being passive, and me? She lectured me about being selfish. And oh boy, she couldn't have been more spot on. Mothers sho' do know their kids and their vices... probably because they stem from ahem* a certain root.

Anyway, if I had to speculate as to why I am feeling more giving, I would say that it is because this conscious effort to keep my new years resolution is starting to seep into the subconscience. Now whenever I find myself in a "situation", I automatically prompt myself, can I give? And immediately following, do I want to give?

I think it's an important distinction to make; the power of choice. We are human, and we are undoubtedly selfish in times of crisis. We are programmed to want to survive. But surely being human also means to be compassionate, even in and especially in times of crisis. So, choice comes into play.

For example, today on BART, I sit down on a crowded train in one of the last open seats. The other open seat next to me has no idea that two women are racing to try and squeeze on each others laps, one of the women blatantly stealing from the other. It was an ugly thing to see, the sitting woman sneer at the woman she stole from. Grown women! The verbal exchange was inaudible but the tones were of disgrace countered with obnoxiousness. I felt disgusted to the core to see two 'mature' women surrender to their survivial instincts with no shame. I thought to give the defeated one my seat but she'd already stormed off... leaving me wondering what I would have done had I not been so stuck gawking like a tourist with no sense of direction. It was a sad thing to see.

I think everyone can give but oftentimes choose not to. Fine. But whether or not you are generally "mean" or "nice", you should know right from wrong. I am thankful that I am relatively aware and fair, but more thankful that my mother taught me well.

She knew me before I knew myself and pounded into my bone marrow that life amounts to nothing if you don't appreciate it. To appreciate, you take and you give back double, in bite sizes whenever you can. Write thank you cards, give surprise gifts, share a kind word or exchange a hello. If you're walking past a homeless person with leftovers in your hand, give it to them. If you are on a bus and an elder is standing, give them your seat.

(written with Khoi Vinh's Writer's Block, app on preview until Feb 15th.)