By Parliamentary Secretary A/P Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim
It’s been a long day. You alight from the MRT, relieved to tap out at the gantry because you’re inching closer to home. Easing into a slow walk, you make a mental checklist of what you need to do tomorrow.
The sounds of traffic quieten down as you reach the void deck. You begin your climb up to the 2nd storey where a hot shower and bed awaits.
Someone new catches your eye.
A rugged elderly man, slightly hunched, shuffling towards a corner near the staircase landing. He kicks off his shoes.
Should you take a closer look?
The corner is meticulously prepared. A straw mat marks his narrow territory. Some bulky plastic bags form a small fort at the foot of the mat. The man’s hair has not met the familiarity of a comb for some time. He prepares to lie down, perhaps to quietly spend the night.
Seems like he has settled here recently. But why is he alone? Are his family members looking out for him?
You hesitate. But shouldn’t you do something? At least ask him what is going on?
What do you do?
Take a photo and spread awareness about this? But what about the elderly man’s privacy?
Approach him? What if he brushes you off or scolds you for being kaypoh?
You hesitate again, weighing the choices.
So, why should you care?
Caring for others and helping them is not always as easy as it sounds. In fact, it is entirely possible to be unappreciated for it. And we must be prepared for this.
As you have seen in the video and story above, it can be quite unglamorous work. And sometimes, people may not even want your help.
In October this year, we held the MSF Volunteer Awards and honoured 169 volunteers ranging from foster parents to probation officers.
At such ceremonies, we thank and appreciate volunteers for their tireless dedication. But a lot goes on behind the scenes for them. A lot that we do not know about.
Just like the story above, volunteers may also have started off with some doubts. Or question how they can go about helping.
I think the larger question is not whether we should be helping. That is pretty clear to us.
It’s how we should be caring and helping. There are many ways to address the how, but it requires collective support. For those in need, we should create opportunities for them to get back on their own two feet.
But it is not enough to snap a photo or upload a video, and leave it at that. We are stronger in spirit and richer in our humanity when we can extend a hand in our own way. And for help organisations and Government agencies to complement this with further assistance.
So, my next question is – how will you care?
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