The Old Man and Ten Ringgit

The Covid-19 pandemic has done unimaginable damage to the livelihood of all people in the world. It has been no different in Malaysia. Somehow we have found the strength and courage to stand up to this pandemic. Through this pandemic, we have learned many lessons and this is one of them.

There was an old man who was a familiar sight at one of the banks in the city.  He was there every day and used to beg at the entrance of the bank’s ATM.   

Photo by Mart Productions on Pexels

My friend Dennis (not his real name) has known this beggar for some time although he does not like calling him a beggar. That’s because he doesn’t literally beg. He just sits on the pavement, a few feet away from the crowd. He never forces anyone to give him cash, but if you do give, he takes it without a word.  Dennis, who frequents this bank, sees him often and occasionally strikes up a conversation and gives him a ringgit or two. He does not mind that the man always takes his cash without a word of thanks. Maybe the old man thinks the world owes it to him. Once when Dennis asked him why his hair was so unkempt, the old man ticked him off saying that if he had the extra cash he would have got a haircut and a shave. So Dennis gave him some extra cash that day. When he next went to the bank, the old man was clean-shaven with a nice haircut. They kind of became good acquaintances or sort of because, although Dennis tried his best to find out more so as to be able to help him, the old man refused to open up to him. This was before the Covid-19 pandemic and the Movement Control Order.

When the pandemic hit our shores very badly this year, the Movement Control Order was implemented and in the initial stages, all businesses, offices, and shops were closed or opened for limited hours. Some, on their own opted to remain closed or like the bank, had staff work from home. Hardly anyone was going to the bank’s ATM, but the old man was ever-present.

Dennis happened to pass by on a Sunday and saw the old man there. Knowing that this was a difficult time for all, Dennis was sure that this old man’s collection must be badly affected. He stopped his car, approached the old man who recognized him immediately. Dennis made some small talk and then pushed a ten ringgit note into the man’s hand. He got a rude shock when the old man angrily threw the ten ringgit back at Dennis and scolded him. “Why are you giving me money when I have no food to eat”? He asked. Dennis was startled and taken back. He also got very angry and blurted out “What are you saying”?  “I am giving you ten ringgit to buy food and eat”. The old man said “your ten ringgit is useless because there are no stalls open here today to buy food”. Dennis refused to believe this and decided to buy the food himself. He took back the ten ringgit and drove around the neighbourhood but to no avail. He soon realized that it was a Sunday and the Movement Control Order was in full swing.

Somehow Dennis managed to find a restaurant about two kilometers away and got the old man some food. Dennis just watched as the old man opened the packet and started eating immediately. When he had finished his meal he looked up to Dennis and said, “thank you”. That was the first time the old man had thanked Dennis. “All morning, I have been sitting here in hunger and people have passed and dropped me a ringgit or two. They did not know that I was hungry with nowhere to buy food with the cash they gave me. They were giving not to help me but to clear their conscience of guilt. I do not ask for pity. I dare to ask you for food instead of money because you are the only one who talks to me and I consider you as my friend and rightly so you have filled my stomach”. Dennis was speechless and walked away in silence. Later, Dennis told me that he had learned a valuable lesson that day from this old man. “Value of money sometimes is worthless and never to be taken for granted”. Now that the Movement Control Order has been relaxed, Dennis does not see the old man there anymore. He has no idea what has happened to him. This is based on a true story.   

Chris is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Author: Chris

Part Time Ehailing Driver with a passion for writing.