WE OFTEN see foreign workers giving up their seats on public transport to Singaporeans. Some of us might mumble a "thank you" and gratefully slip into the seat, while others might reject their offer and look away.
On Monday, however, Rimy Lau, 68, did a little more in an act that has been roundly praised online. He encouraged three construction workers on a train during off-peak hours in the evening to keep their seats, after seeing them scoot aside to make way for some Singaporean commuters.
Directing his comments to one of the trio who spoke the most English, he said: "Hey you can sit down... You don't always have to give up your seat, especially not to men on the train. You come here to build our homes so you can sit also, you know?"
The worker, Saravanan Samidurai, 28, initially appeared puzzled by Mr Lau's interaction with him. But when the worker understood, he broke into a wide smile, whipping out his mobile phone for a selfie with the elderly man.
Mr Lau's action, captured in a Facebook post by this reporter who was in the same train carriage as them, has gone viral. The post has been shared more than 8,700 times.
Organisations such as the Singapore Kindness Movement have also shared it - the movement's page chalked up more than 10,000 likes in the span of three hours on Monday night.
People who commented on the post praised Mr Lau for his inspiring act and recounted similar experiences of foreign workers rushing to offer their seats to Singaporeans - often with little acknowledgement.
Praising Mr Lau, Facebook user Joshua N Faith Sudharman wrote: "Proud of this Singaporean uncle!"
The Singapore Kindness Movement's general secretary William Wan believes that the post resonated with Singaporeans. He said: "We have to gather in common spaces such as buses and trains very often. In these circumstances, we are neighbours by chance but can become friends by choice."
Mr Lau, who has worked as a housekeeping supervisor at the Regent Singapore hotel for 20 years, said he learnt that the workers were new to Singapore. Here on their third day, they had told him that they were on their way to a construction project in Admiralty.
Speaking to The Straits Times, Mr Lau said: "They were so kind-hearted…They wanted others to sit down. I told them that it was not necessary as there was still space in the train, and they are new here with a long ride ahead before they would reach their destination."
This reporter also witnessed Mr Lau giving advice on how to navigate Singapore's transport network. He homed in on Little India MRT Station and shared with them some information on bus routes.
He also said that Mr Saravanan could contact him "any time" he needed help.
Mr Lau, a bachelor, said the workers shook his hand and waved goodbye to him after he got off at Ang Mo Kio, where he lives.
"They were lost at Raffles Place and I saw someone ignoring them as they asked for directions to get around. As Singaporeans, we should be courteous and help out when we can.
"They come here to work. This is how we can take care of them," he said.
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