Day before yesterday, I watched a Beijing TV program and was moved by what a young woman said about commuters' reflection on the traffic conditions during the city's heaviest snowfall in 59 years. She said: "In this weather, we young people should show more concern for senior citizens. For instance, we should refrain from pushing our way into a bus and wait for older people to get in unhurriedly."
As a man in his sixties, I was touched by her words. But some other thoughts, too, came to my mind. Why do old people choose to take public vehicles during rush hours? Since most of them are retired, they have plenty of time to travel during other times and thus help ease the traffic congestion.
People of older generations often complain about the selfishness and lack of respect they find among the younger generations. It is undeniable that some young people do need to be educated on mutual respect and concern for other, especially senior, members of society. But we older people should have some understanding about the young, too.
Today's society is rather different from what it was when we were young. The social, financial and psychological pressure today's young people have to face is much higher than what we did back in the 1950s through the 1980s.
They are in the early stage of their career. They have to find proper jobs to support themselves and work diligently to rise. They have to live in smaller houses, because they are unable to afford the soaring housing prices. Or, they have to labor hard - maybe for 20 or 30 years - to earn enough to pay for their mortgaged apartment. And they often suffer from uncertainties in employment, love and marriage. Considering these facts, we may find it understandable why young people sometimes appear aloof and disrespectful.
I don't mean that we should put up with it without reminding them of the need to mend their ways. What I mean is that we should be more patient, understanding and tolerant toward them.
For instance, when we get up on a bus or a subway train, we should not complain about not being offered a seat. A young person does not offer a senior citizen his/her seat probably because he/she has to travel a long way to work or because the carriage is too crowded for one to move at all.
In fact, young people do offer their seats to the seniors. I seldom take a bus or a subway train, but more than a quarter of the times that I have done so, I was offered a seat. That is fair enough, given that I do not look so senile.
Every time a young man or woman has offered me his/her seat, I have felt more than grateful. I feel gratified to see part of the younger generation is maintaining the good tradition of respecting senior citizens. So I thank them every time they offer me a seat, not only as an expression of gratitude but also to encourage them.
But on occasions, I have seen old people not showing any sign of gratitude when offered a seat.
China has become an aging society since the end of the last century. According to a 2006 survey, people older than 60 accounted for 11.4 percent of the nation's population. And the percentage is expected to rise, given the one-child family planning policy our country has practiced for more than three decades.
In other words, the younger generations will have to shoulder a heavier burden in looking after the parents and grandparents. Theoretically, there will come a day when one couple may have to support four parents and eight grandparents. What a burden it would be!
All this demands that we show more concern and understanding to our younger generations.
(China Daily 01/06/2010 page9)