Even They Have Pride

*NOTE: This was an old post, from when Multiply was still interesting enough. I think I posted this here also a few years back, but for reasons I won’t elaborate, I deleted it. So I had to debate with myself if I wanted it back, decided that I do, so I searched my files and found it. I have to admit, searching for an image for this depressed me suddenly.

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For almost three months, I had been taking a different route going home to the dorm. It’s funny because after three years, it was only then that I knew that I could actually take that route! That is so me. If anybody wanted to get me lost, he wouldn’t have a hard time doing just that. 

But this is not about getting lost and making a fool of myself.  

homeless-old-woman

This image is from Sociological Imagination

You see, since I started taking that route, I had been seeing an old woman hanging around the street corner where I usually alighted. She looked almost like a beggar but because I never saw her ask anyone for anything, purely by coincidence perhaps, I couldn’t make up my mind. I couldn’t just walk up to her and hand her alms. What if she got mad and shouted at me saying, “Ano’ng akala mo sa akin, pulubi?!!” (“How dare you mistake me for a beggar?!!”) Besides, I had been burned before, thoughts of a past experience running through my head. 

However, one evening, I alighted on the street corner again and saw her looking at me. I began to walk away then stopped on my tracks, pretending to be going through my things. I thought I would know the answer if she came up to me. She did approach me and held out her palms, begging, though I couldn’t understand her mumbled words. I brought out a plastic bag asking her if she wanted some sandwich (and it happened I had two). I mean, hey, that’s what beggars need money for. Food, right? Besides, if she would take it, that might mean she wasn’t part of some syndicate. Then maybe I would give her money as well. But the old woman looked at what I was holding and declined. That got me disappointed and a bit mad. I put the plastic back in my bag and walked away thinking, “HA! I knew it. To think I considered giving you money. You’re just one of them!”

That had been my frame of mind until last week when the storm arrived. On my old route, I alighted from the tricycle I boarded due to the flooding. Surprisingly,  there she was sitting and taking refuge in front of a salon, wearing nothing but shorts and sleeveless sando. I wanted to ignore her but I couldn’t get my eyes off her especially since she was holding out her hand  to me again. 

I went to the old woman and asked if she would like some bread. It occurred to me that her hearing was bad already because I had to repeat the question several times. But what overwhelmed me was guilt upon realizing that the first time she approached me, she probably didn’t even understand me! That was why she had a weird, puzzled expression on her face! And I walked away from her leaving her hungry and lonely!

I tell you that really hit me like a ton of brick. Especially when she told me that she wanted rice. She wanted REAL food. She just said rice but of course, some viand as well. I asked her if she had anything to wear other than those that were already on her. She said none. So right there and then, I told her to wait, that I would be back. Under the pouring rain, I ran to the dorm with my umbrella shielding me,  pulled out a shirt and a pair of shorts from my closet, bought food and water, then ran back to her. 

The minute she saw me, she lightened up, then she immediately ate her food with gusto. Boy, was she hungry! It was really a sight to see. I gave her the clothes as well and prayed they would fit her…Then it hit me again. How could she shield herself from the rain? I asked her if she had any umbrella. You can very much guess why my dormmates were wondering about me going home with my clothes all wet.

But that is not the end of the story. Here’s the clincher. The next evening, I happened to alight on the corner of the new route and there she was again in her old place. It seemed she still had good eyesight as she recognized me immediately and smiled her shy smile so I waved. I then noticed the plastic bag I gave her before where I put the clothes. To my surprise, she handed it back to me along with the umbrella! I told her, no, they were hers already. Maybe she thought they were just lent to her. She said, no, she didn’t need them. So bewildered and a bit sad, I took them back and just gave her twenty pesos.

I got to talking to one of my dormmates and immediately, she realized who I was talking about. “Oh, that woman? She’s been there for years. She used to look a lot cleaner then and had nicer skin. She probably wasn’t that poor before. My guess is her family abandoned her.” That was it. I realized she could be right. I could now understand, at least what I thought I understood, the mystery behind her returning the things I gave. 

She didn’t want to beg but  her circumstances forced her to, thus the mumbling. Her hunger forced her to eat her pride and beg for food, but ONLY for food.  When she first declined, she couldn’t hear me right and thought I was offering a material thing. The stuff she returned, she couldn’t accept them. In her mind, she didn’t want charity. 

I think I know why: Even she had pride. That was the only thing she had left.

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BTW, I decided not to do a #FreakyFriday thing to respect the Thanksgiving season. Hope you guys enjoyed the occasion. We don’t have that here, but I would like to thank all of my wonderful blogger friends here 🙂

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8 thoughts on “Even They Have Pride

  1. What ever happened to her? I wonder.

    That was very kind of you to help. I’ve been burned before trying to “helping” others when I lived in the US ,so now I don’t trust people asking for handouts. There still a bit of that here in Thailand. Some families drop off grandma’s and collect them later after they have spent the day begging for change.

    Of course, there are those who don’t have limbs, are obviously diseased and so on. But thankfully, in the small town that I live you don’t see it as much as you do in the big city.

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    • The way you were “burned” was the way I was burned before. It is also especially not that wise to help here sometimes because a lot of these peeps are organized groups doing this kind of stuff, and they increase during Christmas time.

      The worse is many of them are under syndicates. So I have to always think twice before giving money because it will most probably fall into the syndicate’s hands. Even if you try to actually really help the beggars and homeless, it’s probably not safe if they happen to be under syndicates — you never know who might be watching. I had a bit of scare once with the old lady I had been trying to help before. Not sure if she was under such a group but there was another woman whom she knew and that other woman was looking angrily at her (and later, at me when I was walking a bit behind her). I thought that was because I was kind of interviewing the old lady. What really made me stop helping, though, was when I was riding a bus and we passed by her and a guy as they were walking the opposite direction. I recognized him as the guy who always sat selling cigarettes and candy at a spot near her and he would always look at us. Might not be a syndicate but he looked a lot like her and I had an inkling even before that they maybe related. That really turned me off. So what I did was take another route from then on whenever I went to work.

      The problem with me is my personality. And I will go back to what we talked about regarding personality types. I tend to feel guilty when I can’t help. So it’s really hard for someone like me. I look okay outside, but I carry guilt even years after, and I always wonder wonder if I did things differently…?

      I really feel sorry for the beggars and homeless, but I just think that if syndicates won’t profit from them anymore, maybe they will let go of these poor people. What I do try is give food instead when I can. But sometimes, I do encounter beggars who insist on money so I don’t give them any. But to be honest, I am very vulnerable whenever I see an old lady begging. I dunno why specifically.

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