After reading this post, Tan Lili promises you would never forget this significant line: “Today you … tomorrow me.”
At first I thought I was just staying true to my emo roots, then I chalked it up to PMS. But later on I realised, with abrupt clarity, my outburst was a perfectly normal human reaction.
Allow me to start from the beginning. When you run a business, busy is never a bad thing. But alas, I’m no miracle worker. Some days, you feel as if you were trapped in quicksand – the more you struggle, the faster you sink. Yesterday morning was one of those days. Weighed down by a laundry list of things to do, I decided to take a taxi to work so I could get down to business earlier. I got into a Yellow-Top Fiat Croma JTD taxi with a scowl and muttered my destination without even glancing up from my phone. Immediately, I was greeted by a warm and friendly female driver, probably in her 50s. She exclaimed, in Mandarin, “You’re so pretty!” I’d felt anything but, what with my morning grumpiness and the stress-induced frown on my face. But hearing those words, I felt a rush of gratitude towards the auntie because her compliment worked to instantly turn my frown upside down.
Later on she asked about my usual commute to work. When I told her I’d normally take three different buses, she expressed such concern and empathy that I had to assure her thrice that I really do enjoy the bus ride. Soon after we lapsed into a comfortable silence, then she told me to go ahead and sleep if I wanted to. When we arrived at my destination, the fare was $18.50. I had already prepared $17 in my hand but just as I was about to start digging for coins, she grabbed my hand and took the $17. “No, don’t need to give me the coins. Auntie will give you a discount. Here, $15 will do,” she insisted, handing me my $2 note. Flabbergasted, I tried to return her the $2 note, which resulted in a minute of reverse tug-of-war. The auntie won. Right about then, my lips trembled and my vision blurred. I nearly wanted to hug her but I figured she might not take too well to my outpouring of love and gratitude.
After I got off the cab, I slowly made my way up to my office trying to compose myself. I was – and still am, in fact – overwhelmed by the depth of a stranger’s kindness. The auntie owed me nothing, absolutely nothing, yet she unknowingly gave me everything I never realised I needed at the time: strength. Kindness is one of the three strengths that make up humanity (the other two are love and social intelligence); what I had just experienced felt so powerful, it made whatever stress and worries that plagued me before appear trivial. My only regret now is that I wish I’d taken down her taxi’s licence plate number and her name so I could give her a proper thank-you.
My experience reminded me of a beautiful anecdote Vanessa recently shared with me. It was about how a Mexican family went all out to help a guy whose car broke down in the middle of the road. When the guy tried several times to pass the family some money as a token of appreciation, the father shook his head and replied in broken English: “Today you … tomorrow me.”
It’s kind of sad when you think about it. We are all so used to being selfish, so wrapped up in our own wants and needs and worries that such random acts of kindness are a shock to our system. So often, we forget that it’s the simplest pleasures in life that pave the way to happiness. It’s always the little things, you know?
I hope these two anecdotes would leave a profound mark on you, as they did on me. Go ahead and make someone else’s day – it certainly doesn’t take a lot to be a little kinder and more compassionate.
About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction.