Monday, June 22, 2009

The Poor Around Us

Lately, I have become more aware of those who are poor living in our midst.

Yes! There are actually poor people around in Singapore.

At a food center near where I live, I always notice a old couple (in their 50s?) occupying a table during the late nights. Whenever I go there for breakfast early in the morning, I see them there with the wife still sleeping and the man looking a toto tickets. I have seen them there countless of times and they seem to be oblivious to the people around them. The wife just sleeps while the unshaven husband flips through lots of toto/4d (?) tickets.

It makes me wonder... what are these people up to with their lives? Did something happen in their family that resulted in them being homeless? Or are they renting out their homes to gain income so as to buy Toto tickets. I seriously don't know.

Another incident took place the other day too. My wife was waiting for me while I was buying some groceries downstairs. There was an old woman standing near the exit too. Later, my wife told me that the old woman had actually asked for $2 from her to buy food to eat.

" So did you give her the $2??" I asked.

" No lah...what happen if she goes and use it to buy cigarettes or stuff?" replies the wife

At this point, I told my wife: " Why do we always assume that poor people are always going to use the money we give them to buy drugs/beer/cigarettes? Perhaps they are really poor and need food to eat?"

The wife felt bad afterwards..

But of course it is a common misperception. We always think that the poor are poor because they gamble, smoke and drink. We tend not to give them money because that's what our parents told us to not to do! We always hear from them how people who beg for money always use the money to buy cigarettes and stuff.

Hmmmm...I think the poor are poor because they are caught in this poverty cycle. There is simply no way out for them unless someone helps them.


  1. Hi FF,

    This misconception stems partly from the fact that some of the poor really DO end up the way they do because of poor financial discipline, or very bad habits. Thus, many people tend to use the same brush to tar the rest of the poor. It's the same with rich people too - we tend to assume certain things about how they made their money, but each may have very different methods and circumstances. I guess you can safely say "each case is unique" when referring to poor people as well, so we should exercise proper judgement and not label everyone the same way.

    I don't blame your wife for doing what she did, actually. My wife hesitates in buying tissue paper from those handicapped people selling them in hawker centres, because there are so many of them "operating" and you sometimes cannot tell if they are real or fakes. This has happened with so-called Buddhist monks as well. So it's not a case of not wanting to help, but I guess we want to make sure the assistance really hits home and goes where we wish for it to go.

    I have the same attitude towards donations too, as I always ask if the money goes directly to the recipients or to some Gold Tap ! Skepticism is healthy after the recent scandals involving charities, so I guess we also bring over our skepticism when it comes to helping people on the street.

    That said, I do feel personally that the Government could do more and extend their "safety net". There is definitely room for improvement with regards to our social welfare system.


  2. Hi MW,

    Agreed. This misconception is perhaps true in a certain sense.

    I myself am guilty of turning away lots of people who have asked for donations or who are asking me to buy tissue paper.

    The thing that I was wondering was this:

    Could I have inadvertently turned away some poor soul who really needs the money but who was rejected by me due to my perception of the poor?

    Did I turn away from some poor person who might really have needed that $2 to buy some food for himself/herself?

    I don't know and I guess this will not really change the way i react to them even in the near future

  3. Sometimes it seems that we are half-hearted in helping those needy people around us, because of many charity related "issues" now and then so we are kind of scared and afraid that the money we donate are going somewhere instead of the needy.

    So just trust your heart...

  4. I can't trust my own heart...

    I just make it a point to buy all the tissue paper I can now.


Popular Posts