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Begging for money or compassion

Onboard Thai Airways from Singapore to Bangkok, I put on my earphones and opened the book my friend lent me, "The Art of Happiness."

While reading about The Holy Dalai Lama's conversation on the gentleness and kindness of human nature, I was simultaneously engulfed by Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting for You," a song I knew well. In contrast to Freud and other Western thinkers who believed that human nature was egotistical and competitive, the Dalai Lama believed that our basic nature was good.

Marx's song brought up a scene at a night market in Taiwan the preceding week. In the hustle and bustle of hawkers selling their colourful wares and freshly cooked food, it was impossible not to miss the one-armed, one-legged creature of a thin young man crawling pathetically on the ground. He lay on top of a radio/CD player that was blasting out loud music. Chained to his deformed leg was a tin cup filled with a handful of coins.

Embarrassed to see the beggar in the middle of an otherwise joyful family evening, people turned their heads away and pretended not to notice. I ignored him at first. On the way out, I stopped to calculate how much money I should and could afford to give him; then I bent down quickly and threw a couple of coins.

After reading the paragraph about compassion in "The Art of Happiness," I thought about the beggar again and wondered whether money was what he really wanted or needed. Had I the compassion that evening, I would have knelt down and caressed his face, leg, arm, and hand instead.

Who knows if the money he collects will be his to keep. But the touch of another human being will remain with him forever.

26 April 2004 Monday

Related links:
One night in Bangkok
Taste explosion in Taiwan
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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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