The moment they saw me outside the shopping mall, they rose from their squatting postures and slowly, they moved towards me. There was this lady in tattered clothes, an infant in one arm and the other extending out, muttering something in a language which I could not comprehend. There was a little girl beside her, barely ten years old, shyly hiding behind the lady with the infant. From her gesture I would have guessed it was something to do with pleading for a dollar or two.
I extended my hand into my pocket, and the only thing I had in my travel wallet was a ten Ringgit note. There wasn’t even a coin or two in there. Before I could pass her the note, I hesitated. I looked at the sky; it was again loomed with Nimbostratus clouds. I could even smell the reek of the on-coming rain, which meant I needed the money to take a taxi back to the hotel some fifteen minute walking distance away.I smiled at the lady, nodded my head a little before I awkwardly made my way into shopping mall. I did not utter an apology for the unfeeling response. I didn’t know how to. I made way into the building hastily and hoped they did not follow me in my direction.
I made way to the other entrance where the taxi stand was located. As I proceeded towards the row of red and white vehicles, I could not shake off the thought of the lady with the infant in arms, nor could I let lose of the little peering from behind the same lady. To me, it was just a fifteen walk and it wasn’t really too difficult to make way back to the hotel. But to them, the same dollar note may be more than just that. So I decided to make way back to the same entrance where I met them.
They were still there, squatting by the kerb. The lady smiling at the infant in her arms with the little girl sitting beside her peeling off the blades from a dried fallen leaf. I went forward, pulled out my sole ringgit, and hand it over to her. Almost immediately, her smile beamed even brighter as she continuously muttered something which I could not understand. But it was fine for me and so, with a nod I made way to the road to return to the hotel.
The gesture did make me feel close to God, but not to the hotel. The moment I reached the side of the road, the sky broke into precipitation, and it literally poured within moments. It was during this trying time that I hesitated and revisited my decision for being generous. I would not expect the rain to stop any sooner, knowing the climate of Kota Kinabalu City. I was left with no money in my pocket and there was not much I could do than to stay within the mall and hope for the rain to halt.
I wondered if it was a wise decision to give, when I needed the same money for myself. And it was during this time I recalled what my friends had always reminded me, to always love myself and provide for myself first, before others.I would have concurred with my friends at that moment and would have regretted the decision if not for a little tug on my shirt. A familiar little girl stood beside me and in her hands, she offered me an old umbrella. The lady with the infant in her arms was a few paces behind her. She was repeatedly nodding and muttering something again. And I knew she wanted me to have the old brolly. I refused but they were insistent. In the end, I accepted the umbrella and smiled at them with gratitude.
The lady then bellowed at the little girl, covered the infant with a drape or towel of sorts, before the trio made a dash into the rain and headed to the other side of the road many yards away. I watched with unease as they dodged the oncoming vehicles with the rain washing them from head down. Finally they reached the other building, soaked to the skin. Yet, with no grouses, they chose to end this chapter of our meeting beautifully with the little girl turning to wave goodbye at me.
I was very sure they needed the umbrella as much as I needed the money to go back to the hotel. But in trying times, I began to doubt the worth of my generosity. And in the same trying times, they unreservedly extended their generosity. I thought I had a big heart to give, but compared to the three whom I had given, this big heart is but a dot in the galaxy of genuine bounteousness.
To my friends who taught me to love myself first, may I share this with you – “True generosity is not about giving what you need more than I do; but giving what I need more than you do.”
The little girl taught me this.