Proactive Caring Requires No Proof of Need

shutterstock_218159407Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve

This weekend I came across a grand idea. A selfless, caring idea. A concept that has broader application. An idea worth sharing.


The idea comes from New York City where public transportation is the norm.


Public transportation is great. Greater if you are young and healthy and don’t have to worry about finding a seat before the bus restarts with a jolt and knocks you off-balance.


There are signs on Philadelphia buses. Front seats must be yielded to elderly or handicapped passengers. No problem in off hours. But the commuter rush hour leaves dozens standing in the aisles.


In these conditions, the disabled must demonstrate their frailty to justify asking for seating. Asking for help is difficult enough when you carry a cane or crutch. Harder when your weakness is not visible.


If we are to give up our comfort, it must be to someone who is not taking advantage. We can’t see the weak heart, the breathing problems, the temporary strain of recuperating from illness or surgery, or the neurological issues that make life harder for some.


Many truly handicapped or disabled people will not play the H Card. It may be pride. It may be survival. The illusion of health makes getting and keeping work easier.


Sadly, we live in a skeptical world.


The well-intentioned system is so easily abused. You’ve probably seen it: The car pulls into reserved handicapped parking. A youthful passenger hops out and sprints into the store. Yep! The license plate has the little wheelchair on it. A blue H dangles from the rearview mirror.


Abuse leads to skepticism. Don’t take advantage of our communal goodwill. We want proof!


That’s the beauty of this idea.



The proposal is for commuters who are willing to yield seating to wear a pin with a SeatShare logo (still to be designed). A person wearing this pin will give up a seat, no questions asked.


The effect could shame everyone into being a bit kinder. Take a moment. Consider being considerate.


Great start. But it still relies on the needy to ask for help.


Better yet, as this campaign gains traction—and I hope it will—that part of the emphasis be on true proactivity. I’ve seen younger, healthier riders automatically stand as the bus begins to fill to yield to weaker riders. But I’ve often looked across the bus to see riders oblivious to others—some even protecting the seat next to them with a purse or briefcase. Part of this campaign should encourage riders with their noses glued to their cellphones to look up now and then to see the people pressing against them in a crowded bus or train.


There is a lesson in this for church people. Do we demand proof of need before we help? Are we willing to make life easier for the downtrodden—no questions asked? Are we paying attention to the people around us—wherever they might be in the world?


Or are we protecting our turf?