It was the toothless grin that caught my attention more than what he was saying. He was whispering something in Hokkien and thinking that I did not understand, he switched to Malay. As I strained my ears, I caught it. He wanted me to buy him a meal.
As I sat in the mamak shop in SS3, Petaling Jaya, I looked him up and down. His shirt was crumbled. His pants that ill fitted a smaller waistline was held together by a worn-out belt. But, he was clean and to a certain extent, neat.
I nodded in agreement. The waiter who was watching the scene, turned to me and asked: Berapa? Empat ringgit? Again, I nodded in agreement.
Still wearing the grin, he headed for the fried chicken and picked up his choice piece only to be reprimanded by the waiter for using his fingers. His food was packed and he came back in front of me to ask whether he could have a canned drink. Again, I agreed and he darted away. I did not see him leave the shop but what he left behind that lingered in my mind was his happiness and his toothless grin.
The joy of having performed an act of kindness was momentarily disrupted by the waiter telling me that he does this every morning. Surprisingly, I did not react with anger nor contempt. When I first agreed to his request, the thought in my mind was that if I could buy my friends a meal, why not a stranger who has the courage to ask.
I was taken up by his courage. What would drive a man to ask... to lower his dignity? Circumstances? Adversity? He may be getting a meal to feed other mouths for all we know.
Some may disagree. With the act of kindness, we may be feeding his insincerity, condoning dishonesty, encouraging laziness, etc, etc, etc. BUT who are we to judge? And should we judge?
Would it suffice to know that one's act of kindness resonate with happiness all round? Or does one need to know the circumstances and everything of the recipient of one's kindness? I likened it to wanting to know the brand and every detail of an arrow or a bullet that was shot at you rather than being focused on the present moment of being shot and seeking medical attention.
To me, I am satisfied with the moment of happiness that the act of kindness brought. It is the unconditional, random act without any expectations whatsoever. Even a grin would be just rewards... what a lesson from a man with the toothless grin!