An image that haunts me

2015-05-16

Standing in the bathroom looking at myself in the mirror, an image suddenly hits me. I don’t know why but it’s in front of the mirror, looking lost in thought at my reflection, when I get ideas. I am thinking of this photo that has been hunting me since I’ve seen it a couple of days ago and the memory of an old Chinese woman trying to sell tissue paper at the pavement next to the zebra crossing overrun by tourists and locals in Bugis, my favourite district in Singapore, appears vividly in my mind. Even more clearly the reactions of the crowd of people passing her, either ignoring her or shaking their heads instead of saying “no thanks”, scurrying quickly and slightly disgusted past her, treating her like an unwanted nuisance on their busy way to an unknown destination. I came across people like her various times and my companions and I never acted differently. I also never spent a second thought on her. Until I saw the above mentioned photo.

In my childish ignorance, I’ve never realized that she’s part of the people who have been forgotten by the advancing elite and the government that doesn’t really care about the weak. Singapore is emerging and getting to the top thanks to hard-working and intelligent people the government supports but those who can’t keep up are left behind and have to see for themselves. They live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and have to make a living selling tissue papers all day long.

Thinking of it makes my mouth go dry and my eyes turn wet. I know I can’t make a real difference. I’m not a politician. But that doesn’t mean I should let things go on like that. I don’t want to walk past another woman, ignoring her desperate tries to earn some money, again. Never again. I know there are plenty of people struggling with poverty and violence everywhere in the world (also in Germany/Switzerland, yes), but I’ve always had this weird connection with Singapore so the fate of the people there touches me.

I’m going to be different from the unconcerned tourist or indifferent local. Yes, I’m an idealist, but I want to show them that I care. That they haven’t been totally forgotten. I visited a German friend last autumn, a fellow Third Culture Kid, and he buys some food for the homeless beggar next to the shopping center each time he goes there. He does it as if it was the most natural thing in the world and that really impressed me. I still remember how the face of the man lightened up. Because he cared and showed it.

Now I’m thinking of ways how I can do something the next time I’m in Singapore. My little advantage is that I can speak some Chinese even though I look like a foreigner to Singaporeans. So I could talk to her. I could ask her if I could get her favourite meal for her, invite her to eat something with me, or just go to the next hawker centre with her, get her something and leave. (Note: I write “she/her” but I mean whoever I’ll come across doing what that woman was doing) I don’t know. I don’t want to be offensive or arrogant. I don’t want to act heroic and like a saint. I know I’m not. I just want to make a tiny change, even if it lasts just for a short while. Maybe buying some packets of tissue paper is the best thing I can do.

Dear reader, what do you think? Any ideas? I’m kinda helpless so any suggestions (and criticisms about my naiveté) are welcome!

14 Comments
    1. Your intention is pure! I believe we all can make a difference through small acts of kindness. We are living in sacred times, which means sacred acts of kindness will effect everyone. There is always a ripple effect. Thanks for caring!!!!

      1. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Monica! It’s quite easy to resign and think “this won’t change anything anyway” but words like these make me continue my way. Have a beautiful day!

    1. Quite the truth, I always stop by for any genuine person that may need a smile for the day because I would want someone to do that for me.

      1. Thanks for your comment! You’re really nice. I would want that too and this thinking motivates me to do more :)

    1. It’s the little things in life that matter most ! Bugis is my fav place too ! LOL. Once I was eating my lunch at the park, and this lady happens to sit beside me talking on her cell with her mom, she was crying saying that she has lost her job, she lost the custody of her child to her child’s father etc…. so I wrote a note and put on her lap. “I can’t help you with your situation but I can buy you a meal if you want”. That instantly gives her joy. In return it makes me happy too. I don’t know I guess small things does matter.

      1. Great that you love Bugis too! :)) wow that was a really heartwarming gesture of yours. Thank you for sharing your story, it’s always inspiring to hear from others so I know what I could do too. So did you have a meal together at the end?

          1. oh but at least you bought her a meal, that was so kind! :) mid of August, that’s soon!
            ehm something I didn’t get (and I feel stupid about it, haha), I checked out Bermuda but it’s very far from Singapore, can you tell me where you’re living/working? I can’t imagine you’re commuting between those two countries?

            1. I am living and working in Bermuda. I travelled once a year to Singapore up till now since 2007 whenever I can afford it. The air tickets are really expensive and it takes 2 days to get there. This year I’ve already visited Singapore in Feb for Chinese New Year. Thought we could meet up there but seems like I’m going to miss you this time. :-)

              1. wow, what an exotic place! And why do you travel to Singapore of all countries? It’s really far away (similar to the distance Uruguay-Singapore) and I can’t imagine how expensive it must be!
                Aw I was really happy about the last phrase! I’m planning to visit Singapore again next year (from March till August or something like that), maybe we can make it then! I’d love to meet you :)

                1. Whahahahaha! You are so adorable! I was born and raise in Singapore. My parents and all my friends are there. Hell ya! that would be a great idea to catch up! I love to meet you too !

                  1. ooh I see! I thought your name doesn’t sound very Asian haha cool to know I’ve found a fellow Singaporean :) and interesting that you ended up in Bermuda!

Let me know what you think!

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