The other day my family was on a crowded train. I was standing, but my wife and daughter were seated. At one station, an elderly gentleman who obviously had difficulty walking entered our car. So naturally my wife and daughter stood up quickly and said to him, “Please sit down here.”

However, he adamantly refused. “Thank you for your kind offer, but I am OK, I am OK,” he said. Soon after my wife and daughter returned to their seats, the gentleman presented to my daughter a package of cookies, saying: “Thank you for your kindness. Please accept these cookies as a token of my sincere thanks.” My daughter, of course, refused. “I cannot accept this gift,” she said. “Though I will I accept your kind-hearted sentiment.” Yet this gentleman’s determination was firm, and finally my daughter accepted the offering with a smile and with complicated emotions.

When he got out at a station, every passenger nearby witnessed how difficult it was for him. It took a long, long time for him to exit the train. Every one of us wanted to give him a helping hand, I imagine, but fearing that such an action might itself be dangerous, we just watched him, praying for his safety. And fortunately, he made it.

My wife told me later the man probably did not accept our offer because once seated it might have been too difficult to rise again by himself. This may be right, but I interpreted his refusal and the way he voiced it as a case of maintaining the code of the gentleman: “Ladies first.”

We will probably never see him again, but I thank him deeply for not only his kindness of giving us a surprising return for our offer, but more than that he showed every passenger a kind of mental health, strength and gentlemanly behavior. I wish him a long, healthy life.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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