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February 14
2013年2月14日

歐美行、二三事

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人與人相處,有些互動細節往往可以顯現個人公民意識的差別。記得2010年10月出差去瑞典斯德哥爾摩大學,在入住飯店用完早餐後,見到一位看上去像服務員的女士,就隨口問她要根牙籤。這位女士客客氣氣地從鄰桌取來牙籤遞給我,然後徑直去用餐區取用食物。這時我才知曉,原來她和我一樣,也是住店用餐的客人,並不是服務員。

之後去英國,用餐前問一位看似服務員的人洗手間在哪裡,那人有風度地領我到洗手間門口。後來我發現原來他也不是服務員。2011年8月,我在美國芝加哥機場轉機,人多擁擠,拖著行李匆匆趕路,撞到一名高頭大馬的持槍機場警察。我正不勝惶恐,誰知他不但不慍不怒,反而連連陪禮道歉,說是擋住了我,並要為我開道。

素稱禮儀之邦的古老中國也曾有不少令人感念的公民意識故事。《世說新語》中就曾記載過一篇「庾公不賣馬」的故事,講一個姓庾名亮的東晉大臣,飼養著一匹凶悍難馴的馬,有人勸他把馬賣了。庾公卻表示:賣掉牠就一定會有買牠的人,這不是害了那位新買主嗎。怎麼可以將自己的不安轉嫁給別人,讓別人受害呢?

常言道,與人方便,與己方便,很多時候,幫助別人實際上等於幫了自己。最近網上看到一則故事,說一個盲人手提燈籠在漆黑的路上夜行,路人不解問道:「你為什麼要提著燈籠?」盲人答道:「我這是為了自己。」路人感到迷惑:「你又看不見,提燈籠幹什麼?」盲人答道:「我是看不見,但我從來沒被人撞過,因為我為看得見的人照亮了道路。」

似乎在功利主義的西方社會或過去的歷史中反而更常見到感人的公民意識。與之相反,有一位朋友在當地理髮廳詢問一位女士理髮的事,對方覺得受辱似地答道:她也是客人,去問別人吧。偶然遇到的經歷,對方的反應卻如此大相逕庭。

生活中什麼事都會發生,暫且不說需要見義勇為、伸手相救的大事,僅以舉手之勞的小事為例,如陌生人問路、看見別人雙手提著物件需要幫忙開門、見到老弱者讓座等,我們是否都願意熱心相助或援之以手,多少體現了公民意識的高低。

「己所不欲,勿施於人。」這種境界難道引不起利慾熏心的今人重視?

 

Making life easier for others and yourself

A person's social conscience is evident in the details of everyday communication. I still remember an experience of mine in October 2010 when I was on business trip to Stockholm University. After breakfast, I needed a toothpick and turned to a person I thought to be a member of the wait staff. She amiably took a toothpick from the next table and handed it to me. Then she went on and helped herself to the self-service buffet. It was then that I realised she was a guest at the hotel like me, and not a waitress as I had thought.

Here is another experience, this time in England. After a meal in a restaurant, I asked someone whom I thought was a member of staff for directions to the washroom. He politely accompanied me all the way to the facilities I needed. I later found out he wasn't a member of the hotel staff, either!

And here is a similar tale in August 2011. Laden down with heavy luggage, I ran straight into a heavily armed security guard at Chicago Airport when I was rushing to transfer to another plane. Given his military uniform and weaponry, I was seized with panic. But he was not bothered in the slightest, and repeatedly apologised, saying he should not have been in my way, and offered to accompany me to the gate.

If we delve deeper into this subject, we will find similar examples from the classics. Here is an ancient story taken from Essays & Criticisms. A horse belonging to a lord named Yu Liang in the East Jin Dynasty could not be tamed. The lord was advised to sell the horse. "But if I sell the horse, it might give its new master a very hard time," Lord Yu said. "How can I inflict such misery on someone else?"

We are actually making things easier for ourselves when we make things easier for others. More often than not, if you help out others, you are paving the way for your own future. I recently read another story online. A blind man was walking along a path one night holding a lantern. A bystander was puzzled and asked, "Why are you carrying a lantern? You can't see anyway." The blind man replied, "It's true I cannot see, but nobody will run into me, either."

From these experiences and stories, I feel that people in the West or in the past have a higher degree of social conscience. A friend's experiences in Hong Kong stand in sharp contrast to these stories. Here is one instance. He asked a woman in a ladies' hairdressing salon for some information because he thought she worked there, but she turned on him, looking insulted, and told my friend to ask someone else as she didn't work there.

Life is filled with rich experiences that reflect the social conscience of people living in a particular place. Occasionally we see great acts of heroism in society, such as taking up arms in the fight for justice or people risking their lives to save someone from drowning. But we see just as much evidence of politeness, courtesy and civic duty in the little day-to-day moments that make up life, such as someone's readiness to give directions when asked, someone opening the door for a passerby carrying heavy bags, or someone giving up a seat for a senior citizen.

"Do unto others as you would have them do to you." Isn't this worth emphasizing in this materialistic society of ours?

February 14, 2013

 

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