Monday, March 02, 2009

The story of a pen...and ugly people

I held up a pen ... about to write.
Suddenly this pen remnded me of a story: one that illustrated the many facades of man's thoughts and the complexities around what kindness means.

Recently I witness something that was very disturbing in a hawker centre. A crippled and slightly autistic young lady was moving around slowly in Kovan selling pens for a dollar each. I bought a pen and continued to observe her and her interactions with others around.
Fact is, I got increasingly upset with how some unkind people simply shoo-ed her away, the way you would react to an irritate fly. One lady even turned her son's face away as the child wondered how they ought to respond to her. Did the girl deserve such a degrading response as even she suffered from leprosy? In her quiet ways, she was not persistent in selling her products and she simply walked away, expressionless. In my weak attempt to help her, I intentionally stepped forward before that mother and tried to donate some money to the girl. She surprised me with the rejection of the donation and pushed a pen into my hand. Was it blatant ignorance to my act of sympathy or a deliberate act to preserve her pride? None-the-less, I respected her decision.

Upon reflection, I only wished that even as there may be black sheeps among us, the kind hearted Singaporean spirit will prevail to discern and reach out to those who are genuinely in need. Yet in my heart, I was wondering if we still understand what makes our society a gracious one.

Out of curiosity, I decided to text some friends by sms to hear their point of view. Below were their replies:
My wife: Don't be sad. Just help within our own means cos maybe they have met so many to determine who's genuine.
Mr GY: Good on you that you cared! Take it easy. I guess those people are stressed by current climate.
Ms CL: She wants to do real work and so will not want to take money without selling her product. Yes, people are ugly and they need to know God. I would say buy pen if that gives you peace. Meeting people's needs is the first step in sharing the gospel in a practical way.
Ms SN: John, you encouraged me with your act. Ugly Singaporeans are everywhere. Even we are guilty at times. We just dun c the underbelly of S'pore enough. At times, I feel so lost too that I realised I am so unreal. Can't take the mask off, I am ugly too...
Ms YH: Despite her handicap, she is making a honest living. Well, you can't change those who rejected her but at least you did make a difference in her life.
Mr CH: What makes you think she really needs your $? Maybe she is part of a big syndicate? How much can a selling a pen, or a packet of tissue help her? Sometimes kindness does not pay. Maybe the people saw your act and may think otherwise about your intentions. Is that girl pretty?

The above responses were simply overwhelming. Not only because of the contrasting range of emotions and thoughts, but how a single situation may provoke very different perspectives. Indeed, this is a case of how natural checks and balances are already in place to maintain the core of our social fibre. Perhaps thats where individual creativity of making new connections can better our society as a whole.

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