Poor or rich, everyone needs help
After the day’s hectic work, I tried to sneak in a peaceful corner to have a cup of coffee at one of the posh areas of the federal capital. Night was getting darker and of course chillier. I took a sigh of relief and ordered the waiter to bring a cup of cappuccino.
With the random plans in my head, I was thinking as to how to manage my tasks for tomorrow when the waiter intercepted my thoughts and said, “Madam, the coffee is getting cold.” I took the maiden sip and tried to adjoin the breaking link with a quick glance around me.
Coming my way from across the street was what society would consider a ‘bum’. There are times when you feel generous but there are other times when you just don’t want to be bothered to stretch your hand toward your pockets. This was one of those “don’t want to be bothered times” for me. And I presumed he would ask me for money. To my utter surprise he did not. He came and sat on the chair besides me, dragged his hand, and sought my help to text a message to a particular person.
As I typed on his old-fashioned cell phone, I tried to judge him with a fleeting look. From the looks, he had nothing to eat, no shelter, no clean clothes and no money.
“What should I text?” I asked him. “Please text him that I have been waiting all day today from dawn to dusk outside his office and made repeated calls on his cell phone but he did not bother to receive my calls nor called me back,” he said with extreme innocence on his face. I smiled back to him. Putting that cell phone away after I had typed half the text and asked, “Where have you come from, who do you want to meet and who’s this person?”
‘‘I belong to Muzaffargarh and came to this ‘city of bureaucrats’ to get ‘Watan Card’ as my house was destroyed in a deadly flood couple of years ago. Someone from my hometown referred me to meet this particular person who, according to him, would help me obtain this card. This is my third day here in the federal capital. Jamshed Dasti and Qayum Jatoi are elected MNAs from my area. I have tried my level best to access these two parliamentarians but nothing has come my way so far,” he stated without taking a pause. “I can’t read or write. I went to Bait-ul-Maal Office and this is one of the concerned person’s contact number to whom I have begged you to type a text message, and who didn’t respond,” the man attired in shabby shalwar qameez said. “OK, I have texted that man,” I said while giving back his cell phone. “I have written that you have been waiting whole day, but now you are going back home. If he does not show mercy for a shelterless man and is unable to do a favour, he should simply refuse you by saying ‘no’. Now you are running out of money,” I informed that man. He was happy to know this.
After a couple of minutes, he said, “I hope you didn’t write some harsh words to this man.” I smiled and said no, not at all. Again a request from him came my way, “Please, write God bless you and your family.” I said OK, let me send him another text message. He searched his pocket and found a couple of letters and his National Identity Card and put them before me. “This is my application, but I wonder how I should get this financial aid. No one is sincere with this country. No one wants to help the poor. Though these parliamentarians are elected by our votes, they are least bothered when it’s a payback time,” he said in sheer frustration.
“Later, I went the residence of President Zardari, but the guards deputed there did not allow me to enter,” he said.
“Now I am running out of money, my wife called me just now and told me about my ailing daughter. I have only enough money for bus fare to get back home if I don’t eat any meal,” he kept on talking in Seraiki.
He was ragged but he had an air of dignity around him. The expected plea for money never came. As the silence between us widened, a voice inside me said, “Ask him if he needs any help?” “Do you need any help?” I asked. And he answered in three simple but profound words that I shall never forget. We often look for wisdom in great men and women. We expect it from those of highly learned and accomplished persons. I expected nothing but an outstretched grimy hand. Instead, he spoke those three words that shook me. “Don’t we all?” he said. I was feeling high and mighty, successful and important, superior to a bum in a street, until those three words hit me like a twelve gauge shotgun. “Yes, I need help, may be not for bus fare or to get food or a place to sleep, but I need help,” he finished.
I reached my wallet and gave him not only enough for bus fare, but enough to take a cab anywhere in the city and get food and shelter for the very day. But those three little words meant a lot to me and still ring true to me. No matter how much you have, no matter how much you have accomplished, you need help too. No matter how little you have, no matter how loaded you are with problems, even without money or a place to sleep, you can help others. Even if it’s just a compliment, that can help too.
You never know when you may see someone that appears to have it all. They may still be waiting for you to give them what they don’t have. A different perspective on life, a glimpse at something beautiful, a respite from daily chaos that only you through a torn world can see.
I thought for a time being that may be that man was just a homeless stranger wandering the streets to get his right. Or, maybe he was more than that. Maybe he was sent by a power that is the Greatest and the Wisest. Maybe he was an angel and we named him a bum. But what about our parliamentarians – the elected representatives?