Monday, May 20

An unexpected act of charity


UNLIKE most people, I look forward to going to work every morning, even on Mondays. The sights along the way and the ability to move about outside the comfort of home, although they are the same from end to end every day, gives me a sense of freedom.

What I love most about being outside is the people I get to meet along the way. Everyone is different. Everyone has a story. We are interrelated to each other in more ways than we realise. Together, whether we know each other or not, we add colours to each other’s story.

I am glad I am able to go back to work again after I began dialysis. My steady decline in health and lack of stamina in the last few months was worrying. My wife had to help me with most of my activities of daily living. I wondered if I could go back to be as independent as I was before. My already limited hand function got worse to the extent I could not hold things that I used to be able to handle. Sitting up, transferring to and from the wheelchair was strenuous. My wife had to be on hand to make sure I did not drop things or lose my balance and fall off the wheelchair.

It began to look brighter since I started using a cycler for dialysis. Although I was hooked up to it for ten hours straight every night, I am beginning to feel better. The swelling in my ankles and legs have gone down substantially. I feel more energetic.

I wished I had started on this earlier. Those months of feeling weak and unwell were horrible. But this is not a story about my dialysis. It is about one incident that happened last Thursday.

After calling it a day, I caught a train from the airport where I conduct workshops to Kuala Lumpur Sentral to wait for my wife. I was still in work clothes and sporting a work security pass attached to a lanyard hanging from my neck. My workbag containing my laptop was sitting on my lap.

The place was a hive of activity. I parked myself in a quiet corner beside the exit of the LRT station, away from the paths of commuters. Everyone was in a rush. I have learnt to tune myself out of all that hubbub and just let the world go by.

As I was reading an email on my phone, I could see someone approaching from the corner of my eyes. I looked up. It was a young Malay woman in a grey tudung. I thought she was lost and wanted to ask for directions.

It had happened before. After all, with multiple trains stations and exits, one unfamiliar with this place would easily lose one’s bearings. What she did next was unexpected. She handed a RM1 note to me.

“What is this for?” I asked her, perplexed.

She was taken aback and appeared confused at my question.

“What are you doing here?” she asked after a moment of hesitation.

“I just got off work. I’m waiting for my wife.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” And she kept apologising with an embarrassed look in her face. It was then I realised she thought I was a beggar waiting for alms.

Still apologising, she quickly walked away. “Thank you anyway,” I called after her.

She neither looked back nor acknowledged but kept on walking. I was not offended to be perceived as a beggar or someone in need of handouts. This act of hers has shown there are still kind souls out there, especially in the younger generations, who are generous and willing to help without the need to be prompted.

As I watched her disappear into the sea of people, my wife appeared from the train station. I told her about the incident.

It may sound hilarious but not so much for the Good Samaritan. She must have felt deflated and disappointed at the mistake.

There are no right or wrong ways to provide assistance. However, there are a few points to remember to avoid embarrassment to both sides. Never assume. Always ask if assistance is needed. If it is, ask how you can help. I would do this whenever I intended to help someone who appeared in need of it.

On hindsight, I should have advised her to take the RM1 to buy a packet of tissue paper from the old makcik nearby. That should have comforted her to some extent. I hope this gaffe will not put her off from providing a helping hand in the future.

I pray for the Almighty to look favourably upon her intended act of charity. Noble acts like this to those who are in real need should be encouraged and emulated. This is the hallmark of a caring society. This is why I enjoy being out and about. I get to experience first-hand the best of human characters.