‘Don’t you know that our government is very rich? The ministers enjoy such a high pay. You are rich too. You are able to enjoy a meal in the air-conditioned food court, while I go from table to table trying to get people to buy my tissues. So what if I grossly overcharge you? You are still rich, and I am still poor.’
I can’t help feeling that this is a common attitude among the poor people I encountered. It would be inhuman to accuse them of being spoilt, but there is always a sense of entitlement that I find baffling. A friend went to help distribute angpows to the residents in one-room flats, and he was asked why the fabulously rich Singapore Government gave a miserly $200 to each person. I suppose, it is only natural to feel that if others are feasting off the fat of the land, surely we too should share the largesse.
Don’t stone me for sounding like Mr. Scrooge. But beyond political correctness, why should the rich acknowledge any obligation to help the poor? Unless the rich have deliberately exploited and oppressed the poor, everyone is responsible for his own plight. Of course, life is unfair, and at some point in time, the course of our life leads us into certain circumstances. A few end up owning restaurants, some become waiters, and still others have to clean toilets. Why do the poor feel that the rich somehow owe them a moral debt because they have a better life?
Of course, no matter how the poor behave, we have the capacity to be generous. And we can afford to overlook the offensive attitudes displayed too. Hence, I still feel that no one should withhold help, just because the recipient isn’t reasonable or sufficiently polite. If nothing else, we can give because of the love of God. It is simply unfortunate that the pleasure of giving is somehow diminished. One never likes to feel taken for granted. Besides it is hard to satisfy the sense of entitlement. How much does one have to give before the aggrieved poor actually feel less deprived?
I can’t possible try to change how they see life, but they cause me to reflect upon my own attitude towards gifts – whether I receive them with a calculating eye or with thanksgiving. If I let go of my expectations, I allow myself to be surprised by blessings. Isn’t it a pleasanter way to give and to receive?