the measure of a [wo]man….

What would anyone with gzillions in their savings bank and investment portfolio know about living day-to-day?  What qualifies a “gzillionaire” to say Providence will provide for the family’s daily needs?  There is probably surplus, living better than judiciously, for the children and children’s children.

The incident I just related is unfortunately, not fiction.  I heard this recently and was at a loss for words … dumbfounded… to put it mildly. 😮

I don’t know.  I wouldn’t dare say that even in a position where my income is not fixed monthly. 😮

That gzillionaire remark brought me back to one of the few good things from my previous work place.  We decided that instead of just donating money towards monthly rations for an adopted community through a church group, we might want to put a face to the name.  We got some volunteers within the office to help distribute the rations.  It was to a group who lived below poverty line.  (And you thought there were none of those).  They live among us.  Quietly.  Dignified.

We visited many families who were destitute.  Either with one sick spouse and one minimum wage bread winner with school-going children, or senior citizens with no form of income from children or relatives, or physically handicapped with low income jobs.

One particular family struck a raw chord.  The sole breadwinner was a 76-year old lady.  She worked as a gardener for barely $600 a month (this I found out accidentally through someone else).  Minus CPF, minus rent and my simple Maths brought the sum to just over $10 a day for expenses.  And that was not only for herself.  She was supporting an ailing husband and a 90 over year-old mother.  They lived in a one-room, rented flat and the mother had a bed at the corner of the living room.  Almost blind, the old lady was having lunch – a small bowl of rice with black sauce.  I’m not sure why the husband and wife were not having lunch.  Either they were waiting for us to come or my worst fears, they had run out of supplies. 😦

I can’t quite imagine the hardship.  Gardening at any age is a very manual and tiring affair.  For a 76-year old and in the blazing heat?!  From dawn to dusk  – bending and straightening.  Straining the back and knees… It’s a heart-rending yet amazing feat.

Despite all that, before you could begin feeling sorry for her… she was “teaching” me so many things that are good and honourable.  Speaking with her, there was none of the self-satisfied, “humbly” superior correctness of “Providence will provide for our daily needs”.  Though even if she had said that, she’d have been allowed.  Don’t discount also the fact there she probably had faith in a Divine God.  Probably stronger than those of us who are not as needy or pretend to be.  There was a quiet calm about her that belied her hardship.  She was grateful but there was not a trace of self-pity.  She was cheerful and generous-spirited.  Humble and dignified.  Accepted her lot with no complain.  Definitely thankful for the roof over her head.  The $10 a day that she earned with her own hands (with no thought of asking to benchmark higher-paid private sector gardeners) and the extra monthly supplies from the church group.

I don’t know.  When we go for all these feel-good, “help-the-needy” trips, whether at home or abroad, we think we bring help.  But leaving her home that day, I was the one, helped.  Her gratefulness contrasted with the greed of commerce.  Her contentment beautiful, erasing strife.  Her resilient spirit working to provide for her family’s basic needs.  Her proud independence still allowing her to receive help.

She reminded me that dignity and respect are indeed earned regardless of station or status or wealth.  That poverty in the material brings a richness in spirit.  And that is the sum and measure of a [wo]man.

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4 thoughts on “the measure of a [wo]man….”

  1. I can relate to what you are saying.
    At the risk of sounding cliche, I am reminded of a quote from the movie, Ip Man 2 which goes something like, “Although people have different stations in life, everyone’s dignity is the same.”
    This is why I am disgusted with the antics charities come up with on mega TV shows. I am refering to those interviews with the less fortunate or ill where they tell their stories and sob uncontrollably. Sometimes, they even get the TV personalities to shed a tear or two as they host the show. It not only strips the less fortunate of their dignity but turns away donors who detest dog and pony shows. I am befuddled as to why begging is not allowed on the streets but allowed on national TV ! After paying the cost of overheads such as air time, actors fees, telco fees, etc I wonder how much is left.
    The charities would do better to educate the public about the realities of the less fortunate in Singapore. Interestingly, there are people who honestly believe that there are no poor people in our country…that’s how sheltered a life some of them lead.
    Sadly, the people who suffer are not the charities but the people they support….and these are the truly deserving.
    Personally, I have become very sceptical about donations to large charities, given their track record. Each of them held mega TV events raising huge sums of money. These days, I donate to causes which do good work in the background away from the limelight. Sadly, I am told that some of them get almost no funding.
    I guess it is a case of “To each his own”

    1. Interesting spin on begging 2Cents. It is, isn’t it, akin to begging all these charity shows? Never thought of that. Yet another spin on double standards that prevail. Sigh…

      I totally agree. Why is there even a need for such big shows to raise funds?!. The media company doesn’t even contribute to the charity show with free airtime. Such high costs (from all respects) and what do the charities finally get? Strip away the glitz and glamour ie administrative and marketing costs and bring giving back to sincere and simple. Don’t you think?

      Besides, Singaporeans are not that shallow. They don’t need to be entertained to cough up money for donations. Just look at the donations pouring into the Red Cross for the 2006 tsunami or the Acheh earthquake or closer to home help extended to families in need. No big shows needed. Worse, they seem to think that you need to top off the big act each time. Soak in ice. Climb some high tower? What next? Totally unnecessary.

      I feel the same as you. It puts me off contributing to larger charities. Particularly with all the fiascos with charity office holders. Only thing is the charity loses and eventually the needy. I guess it just takes time for people to recover.

    1. Thanks. By the way [..] is used when a quote is edited. The words edited in are acknowledged within the paranthesis, so the integrity of the quote is retained.

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