I’ll never be a Mother Teresa

Life is full of serendipity.

I’ve been troubled somewhat by something that happened last evening just be4 I drove out of my condo to go to my chair yoga class at Kampong Glam CC.

 I remained troubled by that brief encounter all thru the yoga class so much so that when it was over, the yoga instructor came and asked me if I was able to relax.

Huh? Of course, I said and made off, a bit scared by her intuition.

And scared I was too by the earlier encounter. More later.

Why I say “serendipity” at the start of this post is that today, during my daily check of Facebook, I saw that a friend of a friend had written this on her “Wall”:

“one old lady wanted to go chinatown but got on the wrong bus. a fellow stranger old lady passenger advised her to take a taxi cos she had a trolley & could fall off AND gave her $10 for the cab. SWEET!”

It lifted my heart to read that somone is so kind. It lifted my heart even more to have another affirmation at this juncture that there are people who give money to strangers, even though I have heard and read of countless such cases in the past.

I come now to the source or cause of what’s been troubling me.

Like the “fellow stranger old lady passenger”, I’ve all my life been in the habit of passing small notes to strangers who seem in need of a cheap meal or a treat: very, very rarely as much as $10 of cos.

This habit of mine — even obsession — has caused controversy with friends and family members because most of them think a) I’m embarrasing the stranger b)I encourage neediness and c) I may be barking up the wrong tree — just because a person looks shabby, it doesn’t mean that he/she is in need.

But like people who have a “thing” about stray animals, I have a “thing” about stray people, so much so that I suspect this need to “help” a stranger may be unhealthy and could lead me into trouble one day.

I think that trouble manifested itself last evening.

As I was about to get into my car, I saw this shabby stranger to whom I’ve been giving small notes for a meal or two for many years walking past my condo on the pavement outside.

I live in a small condo on a main trunk road with a bus stop and an overhead bridge right outside — which means anyone passing the gate could look into our lobby and carpark without much trouble.

Last evening, my car was parked in the first lot, next to the security guard . Although I drive a non-descript car, my licence plate is easily remembered because of the number combination.

The stranger recognised me even as I recognised him. Or perhaps it’s my car number he remembered, because I had sometimes made a quick stop to give him money when I saw him in his wanderings around Orchard Road and its environs.

He stopped. And stood at the bus stop, continuing to look in my direction.

Mayb I’m paranoid. But I became frightened.

Vagrants I’ve helped aren’t supposed to know where I live.

I don’t mind helping you but please, you are not supposed to have expectation of further help, even tho I understand perfectly why if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, you would want to hang around in the hope of ensuring that next meal.

It’s the same sort of feeling I get when, after I’ve made a small donation to a charity institution, I continue to get “begging” letters ad nauseum from the same institution.

Only worse. Because charity organisations are anonymous but this vagrant has a face I could relate to. And he me.

This vagrant is someone I know by sight. I felt the pressure even more. But I refused to be weak. I can’t be weak. Because if I give him something on my home ground, how do I know I won’t find him waiting for me every day?

Horrors! Then what? Call the police? Call the MCYS vagrant squad?

I drove out of the condo without looking in the vagrant’s direction although thru my rear view mirror I still saw him there.

I worried through yoga that he might be waiting for me. I kicked myself mentally for having been careless enough to pass him a few bucks some weeks ago while only a block away from home. Why didn’t I think that he might try and trace this ad hoc “benefactress” and perhaps get a more regular “donation”?

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to give injudiciously!

Thank goodness the vagrant was nowhere to be seen when i got home after yoga. I made sure i parked my car right in the inner bowels of the carpark so that passers by on the main road can’t check to see if I’m in.

Today, when i went out for lunch, I again worried he might be hanging around. Ditto when I returned. Thank goodness he wasn’t — on both counts. Still, I parked my car well out of sight of the main road.

What does this episode tell me about myself?

I can never hold a candle to Mother Teresa, let alone try to emulate her. Sigh!


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