Are we gracious?

You would expect someone to help you if you fell down in the middle of Orchard Road, right?

Ngee Ann Polytechnic students tried to find out on Saturday if someone would really do so.

They were taking part in “Be Nice”, an event sponsored by the Singapore Kindness Movement’s Seed Kindness Fund.

The group was led by 21 second-year students from the diploma in tourism and resort management programme.

Fifteen first-year students from the same course volunteered to be actors in the various scenarios to be played out to gauge the kindness of Singaporeans.

The event was also one of the projects in the second-year students’ conventions & event management module.

Over six hours, the students acted out five scenarios in various locations in the Orchard Road area.

Scenario 1(Tangs): Can you help with my tie?

At 11am, the participants of the project scattered around outside Tangs and assumed inconspicuous positions.

Tan Jun Guan, 17, the first lead actor of the day, started approaching strangers, telling them frantically that he had an interview to attend, but did not know how to put on a tie.

He was immediately helped by an unsuspecting passer-by, who knotted the tie, taking several seconds, before passing it back.

This was the cue for the rest of the group to gather around the helpful Samaritan and surprise him with cheers and claps.

They even gave him a flower in appreciation of his kind act.

A total of five people helped out in this scenario.

However, not everyone approached were willing to stop and help.

The most common reason offered was “I’m in a rush.”

Scenario 2 (Far East Plaza bus stop): Do you have spare change?

The students then moved to the bus stop outside Far East Plaza and asked people who had just alighted for spare change to take the bus.

A total of 10 passers-by helped in this scenario.

People were more than willing to dish out whatever coins they had to help the students, with some even going to the extent of emptying their pockets.

Scenario 3 (Wisma Atria): Dropping a stack of papers

The students had much less luck in a scenario involving an actor dropping a stack of papers while walking down the stairs outside Wisma Atria and Ion Orchard.

When the actor, Bernard Lim, 17, dropped whatever he was holding on to, no one helped him.

He repeated the act and the same thing happened.

Interestingly, when the actor was replaced with a female one, three passers-by stopped to help her pick up the papers she had dropped.

Scenario 4 (Wisma Atria and Ion Orchard): ‘Injured’ girl falls

Teo Jia En was the lead in a scenario which required her to pretend she had an injured foot.

To make her injury look more authentic, the 17-year-old walked with crutches and limped whenever her bandaged foot touched the ground.

Jia En then released the crutches and fell.

While most onlookers were still hesitating, it was a fellow student who rushed forward to help her.

Beatrice Isidora Decruz also studies at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, but was unaware that her schoolmates had organised such an event.

She hesitated slightly, because she initially thought Jia En had a friend to help her, but when she realised the girl was alone, Beatrice decided she should help.

Said the 18-year-old: “I just thought that if I was the one in that situation, I’d like someone to help me too.

“I waited for someone to help her because I was quite far away, but no one came, so I just rushed to help her.”

Scenario 5 (Mandarin Gallery): Asking to be taken to a destination

For the final scenario, the students took things up a notch.

Instead of simply asking for passers-by to give them directions, the actors asked to be taken to their destination.

The scenario was played out outside Mandarin Gallery, where a student from Malaysia, speaking in a foreign accent, asked strangers to take him to *Scape.

Of the four people he approached, only one helped him out.

Most students participated in the Be Nice programme because they felt it was meaningful to be gracious towards others.

One of the event organisers, Lee Zong Heung, 18, a second-year tourism and resort management student, said that only a minority of the young people in Singapore are not gracious, and most of them will not hesitate to help someone in need.

He added: “My mother always tells me that if you want to be gracious, you need to be sincere about it. Without putting your heart into it, you cannot truly be gracious.”

This article was first published in The New Paper.