MRT breakdown brought out the best in S'poreans

During the massive MRT breakdown on Tuesday, it was heartening to hear that amid the chaos, unhappiness and negativity, there was a swell of compassion and kindness ("Making good out of a bad situation" by Ms Susan Tan Chwee Huay, "Kind acts lift spirits amid all the disruption"; both published on Thursday, and "Kind acts, a poem and song lyrics, amid MRT breakdown chaos" ; ST Online, Wednesday).

From the stories emerging in The Straits Times and across social media, many clearly went out of their way to be helpful, with gestures such as offering rides or refreshments to stranded commuters.

Others contributed in different, but very significant ways - by keeping spirits up and exuding an infectious positivity, for both frustrated passengers and harried staff.

At a time when many commuters were frustrated and angry, there was a risk that negativity could spiral into contagion. It didn't.


Mr Wong Shih Shen has painted an almost operationally flawless picture of Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system ("Look to Hong Kong's MTR for lessons"; yesterday). However, reports in Hong Kong have highlighted the system's problems, such as delays and breakdowns, in the face of rising fares.


By cooperating and working together, whether by helping drivers pass instructions down the bus, ride-sharing, shepherding traffic or buying drinks and snacks for SMRT and Land Transport Authority ground staff, these commuters make us feel good and, in turn, inspire others to feel better.

Small gestures like a smile, a laugh, or even simple good nature can really make a bad situation feel better.  Consciously or not, these gestures, both small and grand, have been heartening. They reaffirm that despite what may be said about Singaporeans' tendency to grumble or complain, we are more than capable of banding together in moments of difficulty.

They are proof that Singaporeans, working together, can overcome any adversity, and that while they rightly seek accountability for this fiasco, they do not let it overwhelm their better nature.

William Wan (Dr)
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2015, with the headline 'MRT breakdown brought out the best in S'poreans'. Print Edition | Subscribe