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Photo: Humans of Singapore

An elderly man, a tissue-selling lady and a story of paying it forward

Photo: Humans of Singapore
Photo: Humans of Singapore

We have all seen them around the island – the elderly folks who toil away at the food courts, hawker centres, coffeeshops, and at mrt stations selling tissue paper.

Sometimes these senior citizens would approach others for assistance, to ask for a few dollars ot loose change.

The Humans of Singapore Facebook page posted such an incident on 7 June.

The page “is a project dedicated to documenting the stories of the people of Singapore, and is inspired by Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York (HONY).”

The 7 June posting, apparently made by the administrator of the page, said he met a man near Plaza Singapura last week.

“He asked me if I had money for food, so I gave him the 4 dollars that I had in my wallet,” the post said. “He became super animated and hugged me and thanked me in whatever little way he could speak because he couldn't speak that much.”

What happened next was even more heartwarming.

“At the very same moment,” the Facebook post continued, “an Aunty came by trying to sell tissues. I'd unfortunately given up all my cash to the uncle, so I told her I could go to the ATM and withdraw some but she said it was fine, she was just tired of selling tissues all day because some people didn't even respond to her, and she was grateful that I at least tried. I felt bad and apologized, and told her I would buy some the next time I saw her.”

When the author of the post was leaving, however, he saw that the man whom he had earlier given his money to had handed the S$4 to the woman.

“When I was leaving, out of the corner of the eye, I saw the man giving her the 4 dollars that I'd given to him - and when she thanked him and tried to offer him some tissues, he just waved her off and went away whistling to himself.”

The author said he wasn’t sure what to make of the incident but that it was something which seemed worth sharing online.

The post has since attracted lots of support with almost 1,700 “shares” on Facebook.

It has also prompted others to share similar encounters they had had.

Ms Goh Bee Lian said, “Once a lady aged around 30 approached me outside Lavendar station and asked me for $2 as she did not have enough money to get home. Something about her made me sense she was "special". Anyway I gave her the money and as I stood there waiting for a friend to arrive, I saw her skipping along to the ice cream stall and buying herself an ice cream. It was somehow so innocent, and made me smile.”

Mr Arman Sulaiman related an experience his sister and mother had: “Due to my mum's cravings, my sister brought her to Swensen for her favourite Clam Chowder in Sour Dough bun.

“When my sister approached the cashier point to pay for their food, she was told that her bill was taken of by the couple who sat next to her table.

“Thank you, unknown couple. May both of you be blessed with abundance of good fortune, happiness and good health.”

However, there are also those who questioned if it is wise to give so readily to those who ask.

Mr Paul Lim related an incident he had with a lady outside Maju camp who was seen asking for a dollar for bus fare. No one seemed to care about her request.

“I took out that $1 coin and pass to her,” Mr Lim said. “She receive it without replying a thank or even glance at my eyes, took that bus and moved off.”

He said the experience is one reason why sometimes he does not want to give.

The administrator of the Humans of Singapore page replied:

“I don't think it makes sense to give away a few dollars, but have it accompanied by so many expectations from the person receiving that money.

“It's natural to hope for a simple thank you - so if I do receive it, it makes my day. But I try not to expect too much from the other person - it's just a few dollars anyway.”

You can submit your entries or stories to the Humans of Singapoe Instagram page here: https://instagram.com/humansofsingapore/