Conscience calling

Walking home from the railway station, I am devouring a lemon-custard bun. There is a blueberry-jam bun in my purse that I am saving for later. A few meters ahead I spot a grey-haired man half-knelt on the sidewalk, his face scrunched up. He is making indecipherable sounds. A bowl sits before him. I get closer and we make eye contact. I take another bite of lemon custard; the guilt sploshes about in my gut. I very rarely give to beggars, having been told all my life that no good comes out of it. But I could at least give him the bun in my bag. The blueberry-jam bun. Would that look weird? I’ve walked past him now. Should I turn back? It’s too late. He probably wouldn’t enjoy it anyway. The homeless these days are picky about the food you give them–what if he just throws it out? What a waste. I keep walking; I turn a corner. My heart is troubled. If I see another beggar I will do something. Not that that’s likely though; another five minutes and I’m home. But what’s that up ahead: a woman huddled on the sidewalk with her head down, a plastic cup explaining her purpose. I get closer. She doesn’t look up. I don’t know where I would put the bun. It’s wrapped in plastic but putting food on the ground is like feeding a dog. Balance it on the cup? Tap her on the shoulder? People are coming towards me; I have to move aside. I just walked past her.

I should turn back.
Chinese don’t like sweet things.
Give her a dollar then.
She might be working for the triad.
She needs to fucking eat.
The government should help her.
I have no soul.

I let Sean have most of the bun. At least it wasn’t all for me.

Now I am writing about the incident on my blog. My belly is full and I am warm, but I am still a good person because I acknowledge my heartlessness. Forgetting it is worse.

It doesn’t take long to forget.

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4 Comments

Filed under SH living

4 responses to “Conscience calling

  1. I feel the same way in NY! (And I have also decided that food is better to give out than money.) This conscience-attack happened to me once when I actually had some granola bars in my bag. I felt bad and made up for it the next time a similar situation occurred (when again, I had extra granola bars handy). It made me feel better about myself. But well, I rarely have extra food with me anymore…

  2. I rarely do either :( How was your granola bar received? I can’t decide if the conscience attacks are worse in the States or over here. The demographics are notably different: more females–esp. with babies in their arms–and more who are handicapped in some way, like you see in HK. These really get me, but I feel helpless (or is it that I make myself feel helpless to prevent myself from acting?). Sigh.

  3. I don’t think it was very much acknowledged at all. Probably a nod of the head in thanks or something, at best.

    True. There are probably also less resources dedicated to helping them, and more of them to boot. But then there always the shams who really just live off the scraps and don’t even try to pull their lives together… Which is why I say food > money. …? :\

  4. adam

    blueberry jam buns sound pretty good. the moral thing to do would have been to take both of them out for XLB and then taken some photos. didnt you discuss this in ethics class?!?!?!

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