I’m sitting in the middle of the first carriage on the train from Central to Newcastle. It’s 8.30 am and every twin seat is occupied by at least one person. At the first stop a lady gets on and politely asks the gentleman sitting in the three person seat at the rear end of the carriage if she can sit. He replies with a very friendly “Sure, no problem!”, and shifts his luggage to make room for her. Moments later they’ve introduced themselves and have been chatting away ever since.
At our second stop a man gets on and searches for a seat. The rear facing 3 seater at the front of the carriage is vacant, except for the luggage of the man sitting in the forward facing 3 seater opposite it. The seat seeker asks politely if he may sit down. He is greeted with stony silence. He then asks, in a friendly tone, for the luggage to be moved across so he may sit down. At this the luggage owner jumps up, clearly annoyed, and with exaggerated movement picks up his bags and slams them down in a new spot, thus making be grudging room for the seat searcher. Not a word has been spoken between them since.
At one end of the carriage two people are enjoying a pleasant trip that will see them arrive home relaxed and enjoying the world. At the other end are two people experiencing a tension filled trip that will see them arrive home stressed and irritable.
The difference is a simple act of kindness at one end versus a simple act of selfishness at the other. Amazing what simple acts of kindness can do, isn’t it?