So… just a few moment ago, a dirty beggar went inside the coffee shop I was staying in. I stiffened up, as he approached a lady who was alone in her table. Where is the security guard? was my first thought. Until I heard him spoke.
He was well-mannered. His proficiency in English was better than most, his diction reminding me of a lot of call center agents or graduates from good schools. He was very cordial, despite the fact that his apparent urgency seemed to be driven by either hunger or the fear that some local authorities would show up soon.
I hesitated. I didn’t know what exactly to do; I was observing and analyzing him for any potential threat, as he moved from one customer to another. The lady whom he first approached caught my eye, and laughed silently with me. The other lady who gave him a fifty peso bill grinned good-naturedly as well, amusement and pity mixing in her generous smile.
By the time I decided that maybe I should just treat him to something edible from the store, a security guard already arrived and diplomatically escorted the beggar out of the coffee shop. I overheard one of the store staff that the beggar was seen before in SM Mall of Asia— a poor soul who must have lost his mind or something.
I don’t know if I’ll see him again. I don’t know if I’ll have the courage to find out, listen to his story. I don’t know if I’ll hesitate again between giving up my own personal comfort, share my hard-earned money. What I do know is that I feel disgusted at myself, because despite all my talk about hypocrisy and compassion— I was faced with this reality, and I reacted with revulsion.
And he’s not the only one: almost everyday, I pass by a lot of children, families who sleep on the street, living in filthy dumps in the backstreets of Makati City, huddling on building steps or under whatever shelter they can find. Some, with the decency of a cardboard for a mattress; others, with only the divine grace of blissful sleep to comfort them— their life’s worries summarized and simplified into mere existence and survival.
Suddenly, the delicious overpriced mug of coffee tasted bitter and heavy.
I keep talking about our need for change— but is there anything we can do, is there anything we are doing, to make this change true for these people, too?