I received a call from the Society of St Vincent De Paul. They asked if the uncle had any family or children (No, he doesn’t), and if he can walk (Yes) and take care of himself (Yes).
Uncle Lok fits the requirements perfectly for a candidate who can apply for a home at Queen Street. There, they provide lodging and free meals. He is free to do as he likes in the day but there’s a 7pm curfew.
I was super excited. I thought it was a good fit. We explained to Uncle Lok the offer we had and we found out while explaining that he could speak pretty decent English. He smiled and politely rejected the offer.
Again we explained, to make sure he understood. He told us,
I can still support myself. I can still take care of myself. There are other people out that that need it more than I do. When the time comes when I cannot, I hope there is somewhere to go to, to just live out my days. But right now, I can still support myself.
This isn’t the happy ending you’re looking for. I should know. It’s a bit anti-climatic and disappointing but this is reality.
I learnt a lot today. One, these tissue paper sellers are fiercely independent. They work because they do not want to be a burden to the society. We should respect that and two, how we can proceed from here..is to give them a little respect, offer your couple of dollars and thank them for their service. Finally, there are always people out there who need help. How that help looks like could be just a listening ear or more..we’ll just need to listen first to figure it out.
Please do your part by helping the next tissue paper seller you see! Uncle Lok will be glad that he’s sparked this small movement. He’s there every night at Circuit Road Food Market, say hello if you see him.
In any case, thanks for listening and joining this conversation. See, Singaporeans aren’t so bad.
Originally posted on my Tumblr blog