Saturday, November 15, 2008

About The Man At The Bus Stop

He's probably in his mid-50's. About 5 feet 5 inches in height and a little bit plump. He has grey hair and wrinkled skin, and he walks with forced agility. His speech is still perceptible but his hearing seems to be impaired. His clothes are somewhat threadbare and his shoes are a bit worn. He sustains himself by begging for loose change. 6 dollars, to be exact. You'd pity him the first time you see him. Like me and Tim, the first time we saw him at the E31 bus stop in Tsuen Wan.

We got to the bus stop, unmindful of the world around us, busy ranting about our own jobs, then a man --- that man --- presented himself to us. He spoke in Cantonese and immediately, Tim reached for his wallet. Seeing that and how the man opened his palm which revealed $4.00, I was certain he was begging for alms. I felt a prick in my heart. How dare I complain about my job when there were people in need of one but doesn't have any? Then he walked away, limping. I'm telling you, you'd pity him the first time you see him.

But when everytime you are in that same bus stop, and, at any time of the day, he is there asking every single person for $6.00, then there's enough reason for you to feel cheated. Pissed. Betrayed, even. At times, the mere sight of him from 6 meters away would even bring out the bitch in you and make you come up with something mean to say to him in 5 seconds flat. Or at least something mean you wish you could say to him and to people like him who take advantage of the innate compassionate nature that we have as human beings. He lives in a first-world city, for God's sake, where opportunities are limitless; where the law prohibits age limit for service crew members in food chains; where people with disabilities keep themselves productive and employed by sitting at the doorstep of malls with counters in their hands keeping track of how many people come in from opening to closing; where, in Wan Chai, the barter system had been modernized and one can get money coupons for any kind of service rendered to the community and buy anything from rice to bags with them; where, in business districts, corporate employees get in the queue on their lunch breaks to have their shoes polished by shoeshine men and ladies on the sidewalk whose only tools are 2 stools, shoe brushes and 2 cans of Kiwi: black and brown; where the less-fortunate can carry a portable sound system in the subway and sing there and collect loose change without being bothered by the cops so long as they are not a nuisance to the pedestrians. Is there seriously nothing he can do but ask for $6.00 from people at that particular bus stop? Come on!

So tonight as I was walking to that bus stop, my eyes rolled instantly as I spotted him sitting at the bank entrance near his workplace. I got in the queue and, as expected, he began asking everyone for alms. Everybody must've have seen him more than once before tonight, because none even bothered to listen to what he was saying. The shrug everybody gave as he approached each one of us seemed perfunctory to me. Then came a man, much taller, much more plump and a bit younger-looking than him and stood at the end of the line. The beggar delivered his line in Cantonese, and the other man, after listening to him seemingly intently, declined to help. Mr. Beggar tried to push his luck a bit further, and a bit further still, and a bit even further, which got Mr. Taller to the end of his temper. He yelled at the beggar and shoved him away from the queue. He humiliated the beggar mercilessly and everyone seemed pleased about what he did. Everyone but me.

Shortly after, the E31 bus arrived and we got on it. As I took the window seat, I could see the flushed beggar sitting with his head down on the sidewalk and all I felt was anger. I was angry at his family. I was angry at his friends. Where were they? Why did he need to be a parasite to the whole community and not helped by his family and friends? What could he have done that brought him to the bus stop? And what was it that he needed to ask for too many six dollarses?

Turning my head away from the other passengers and concealing my face, I looked out the window and shed a tear. Someday, somewhere, I too will need help. It scares me that when that time comes, I will need more than six dollars. Or even more than hundreds or thousands of six dollars. I could only hope that, right now, while I still can, I am able to do enough good to the world to deserve to be treated better than the way they treated the man at the bus stop.

Hold me, like the river jordan
And I will then say to thee

You re my friend
Carry me, like you are my brother
Love me like a mother
Will you be there�
Weary, tell me will you hold me
When wrong, will you hold me
When lost will you find me?
But they told me a man should be faithful
And walk when not able
And fight till the end but I'm only human... our darkest hour in my deepest despair
Will you still care? will you be there?
In my trials and my tribulations
Through our doubts and frustrations
In my violence and my turbulence
Through my fear and my confessions
In my anguish and my pain
Through my joy and my sorrow
In the promise of another tomorrow...

-Free Willy Song
Michael Jackson