I was at the Rotaract Clubhouse today helping the young men sort out the donations they received from the public in support for the campaign this Friday to Cambodia. As we unwrapped the bags and bags of clothes and soft toys, some needed to be discarded because of their unsuitability. We left the many bags of toys and books outside the clubhouse so as to make space for the boxing of those stuff we wanted to bring along with us.
It was not before long before a few ladies in green came over and started to put their hands on the stuff we left outside the clubhouse. I smiled at them and told them if they’d like anything, they were most welcomed to help themselves because the stuff were all quite new and mostly usable, just that we were unable to lug them along due to the designated maximum load we can put onto the plane with our ticket.
So these ladies started helping themselves – an old soft toy for one’s grand-daughter, two pencil cases for another, a brand-new table tennis bat for the third, and a stack of Mr Men booklets for the indian lady’s youngest daughter. They were all delighted in this new treasure trove to what we deemed as junk.
A quarter of an hour later, a staff from Estate Management office came and made some loud noises about these ladies not working accordingly and garang guni-ing outside the clubhouse instead. His hostile voice rose higher and higher until I could not take it and walked straight out in front of him and asked him what the issue was. Immediately he mellowed and apologized to have raised his voice as he was not aware I was in the clubhouse.
He said and I quote, “These cleaners are like houseflies. They see piles of junk and they will fly around. The only difference is they don’t buzz but yak yak yak.”
I was appalled by his response and had a take a quick moment to recompose myself. Then, I told him that if these ladies were houseflies as he claimed, then he would probably be Sheltox – simply opened his mouth and the stinking toxin spurts out like no one’s bloody business. I told him there was nothing wrong with people taking second handed stuff for their folks and that I grew up with such toys and books as well.
The man immediately apologized and explained that he was joking. I told him I was however not. He repeatedly apologized and made way into the stairways before he disappeared along the corridor.
Although I was a irritated by this man’s conceitedness, I was more disheartened that a well-educated young man, probably fresh from the University, would mock these ladies with a label of ‘houseflies’. Perhaps he had grown up in a silvery environment where life took him on a headstart over the others, or that he would be one of those God favoured more than the others, that did not give him the right to dismiss the dignity of those who were less blessed than him.
I continued to help the few aunties select what was best for them to bring home to their families. Half an hour later, they were all smiles, grabbing bags of dolls and toys, and broken luggage bags, sauntering cheerfully bidding us goodbye with heaps of thanks.
I turned and told my Rotaracters that we may not give people the best of what we could, but the least we can give them, is the dignity of a fellow human being. I wanted them to bear this closely in mind before I grabbed my keys and headed back to the office.
It was an afternoon that I will remember for a while.