The public bathroom was traditional and yet exceptional. Designed for men of all ages, there were two additions. Firth a urinal designed for one standing less than four feet tall. The second was a sink to match.
I watched a young boy washing his hands in a sink to his size. Visually he appeared as a Singaporean pre-teen. Dress, demeanor, and body language all reflected the local culture and age. This boy who is soon to be young man went to wash his hands without any prompting. This was not a frivolous fly by washing. It was much more than a token act. It was a real, serious, take care kind of washing and drying of his hands. Along the way, you could see that this was not his first experience. He took care to make sure water was not being splashed about. The paper towel was used and ended up in the basket instead of the countertop or the more common floor. The final step was one of courteous patience to others that were present.
This young man was twelve going on twenty-five. In the few minutes that this story unfolded, I found myself holding the following mantras.
Modelling ideal behavior is never limited to or claimed exclusively by one generation or age group. Anyone in any circumstance can bring this to our attention. When s/he does, the story is always compelling. Today I left encouraged, inspired, and energized by a simple example.
Doing the right thing has a source and foundation. Many parents are pragmatic in their righteous indignation in trying to drive the right hygiene behaviors. The intensity of their emotion plays out in a thinly veiled threat; as if it would make “God so angry that a plague spread through their ranks.” (Psalm 106.29) In this case, his parents must have taken a very different approach that led to surprising ends, at least to one stranger.
Actions lead to consequences, intended and unintended. In this case, a simple act of washing one’s hands left me impressed, surprised, and respectfully filled with hope.