Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Benefit of Doubt

For those who have known me for a long time, maybe you'd know that sometimes, I'm too naive a person. Sad to say, I have yet to learn how to master the skill to trust the right person, and set off the alarm when someone with evil intention get close. I have yet to realise how it will lead me to be a victim over and over again, of those who take advantage of others' genuine empathy.

I was holding a pack of dinner treated by my friend from my work place. My friend is a trainer there, and he has free trainer meal every week. This is my final week working there, and he insisted that he wanted to treat me. I was a little hungry, too. I had my dinner at 4:50pm, right before I start my shift from 5pm till 10pm. 

As I was approaching the exit of KLCC after work, there was this Chinese man from China approached me, and asked if I understand Mandarin. I am aware that sometimes tourists come across unfriendly Malaysians and have bad impression about us. So I was just trying to be nice, and see if I could help him to find his way. Kevin says I am already sort of living in KLCC anyway.

However, he was not looking for direction. He was asking me to lend him some money. He said he needed some money to buy food. Instantly I felt that he must be starving because all the shop had closed by this time (10:30pm). Then I offered him the meal my friend treated me. I thought it was a good solution-met-problem match. He needed food, I had food which I did not desparately need.

At first he turned it down, and still asked for money. He tried to give me his name card, and convince me that he will be around town for a few days and the next day he could have enough money to pay me back or treat me a meal already. It never occurred to me that I wanted him to pay me back if I had decided to lend him money. I have a traumatizing past experience with creepy stranger just because I was also only trying to be nice.

Eventually he told me that he needed money also for transport and accommodation for a night. I realised that he was asking for more now, and I apparently don't have enough money for all that. So I told him I don't have that much money with me. Then he asked me how much did I have with me. I knew I have RM70 plus because I counted it earlier to make sure I have extra money for my SPA interview tomorrow - traveling there, food and etc. But I mumbled I only have RM20. Honestly, that was the amount I would be lending/giving him should I had decided to trust him.

Thank God that I am a decidophobe. It took me a while to hesitate. There was once a motorist approached me at a bus stop, telling me that his bike has broken down, and needed some money to get his bike to repair. There was no ATM machine around, obviously. He asked for RM18. I handed him RM20. And I felt happy after that, like a cheerful giver. It never occurred to me that I wanted to have his contact number so that I could get my money back, too. I thought this time will also be the same. Someone who's desparate enough to ask for money, in the centre of a big city, at night. I can relate very well how one would feel lonely and helpless when he doesn't have enough money with him. I thought I could afford to help.

Back to the Chinese guy. So, he said, RM20 is good enough. He tried to convince me that his father will be picking him up tomorrow and he will have enough money to pay me back. I wasn't even thinking about how he is going to pay me back, because I had not even done deciding whether or not to trust him yet. And Jun Hoe's advices hit me: that not to trust strangers too easily because they are strangers after all, and when it is needed, we have to learn to say NO and be firm on our own stand.

When I finally managed enough courage to tell him that I don't want to lend him money irregards of the amount (because I couldn't get over the fact that I lied to him about the RM20), he turned his attention to the food I offered and he turned down just now. He asked, "So this is food?" And since then, I started to hesitate if I wanted to give him that too. Because it costs RM25+, which is a little too luxury for a dinner. Actually, it means more than RM25 to me, for the apparent reason - it's a treat from my friend! He wanted me to enjoy it because we probably won't be seeing each other much after this Friday!

He then grabbed the food from my hand, and when I had not done deciding if I should give him the food, he said it's alright, he would take the food instead. @!$@#%$#5 ?!! It was MY food, hello?! But it was me who offered it just now, as I tried to avoid involving money in this case. And I started anew to decide if it was alright to give him the food because he might need it more than I did, even if he could be lying about his no-money status. And a small voice inside me told me that: "Let it go, maybe he is really desparate. It's only food. You feel heavy-hearted just because it is fancy food, not because you need it to survive. You have enough money to afford some buns from the hostel cafe later and you should be thankful for that. You should just let the miserable and decidophobia-enhancing moments end here and get back hostel immediately before the curfew."

So I let it go, and the Chinese guy thanked me, though I wasn't even listening to him already. I couldn't hear anything around me as I saw him walked away, with the Chicken Crisper. I knew the food will go down to someone's stomach, which, serves the purpose of filling the hunger. I wanted to believe that it would serve a bigger purpose should someone needed it more than I did could have it. I tried to think that, maybe Nar would be happy too, that his food went to someone who would receive it gratefully.

But deep down I wasn't feeling happy. I felt that I failed terribly to defend myself - so terrible that even a stranger could push me around like that. I was frustrated with myself for not being able to be firm with my own mind. I understand that I absolutely had the right to say NO and let that Chinese guy thinks that I am unfriendly and selfish and cold-hearted and realistic and 1001 other descriptions for an unhelpful local and get hold of what is important to me, yet I let him took advantage of me being indecisive and felt too guilty being unempathic.

Kevin once said he couldn't believe as someone who's already at her final year, I am surprisingly quite a dumb person. I have no ground to disagree.

And for once I was actually recognised correctly as a Chinese instead of some exotic indigenous tribes from East Malaysia , I hated it.

If Jun Hoe is reading this, he probably is shaking his head now, again. When will I actually learn to improve? I don't want to shut down my heart and totally not feeling empathy for strangers who might be genuinely in need. I want to keep the faith in me that allows me to give people the benefit of doubt sometimes. Because I was just trying to be nice. Because I believe things may happen and may strike a person down to pleading for help. Because I want to release them from the agony of helplessness. Because I can't even tell a lie to save myself. 

Because I can't help but to be a little too empathic sometimes most of the time.



KwOnG FeI said...

haha..another story of Good Samaritan..
those day when I saw a beggar, normally I will donate a max rm 1-2 to them.
but, after reading some articles on the web, i had decided not to give anymore.
based on what i read, the best solution for the beggar isn't money.. the best solution is to contact the public welfare department and sent them to the public welfare house.
if we continue to give them money, they will continue to be a beggar day after day until caught.. after all, many believe that those regular beggar at pasar malam or public area with sadly crippled limbs and so on are related syndicate associated with gangster..
for your case, looking to the environment as you describe and the way the man approached you. I too will think of giving him money. BUT i will limit to a max of RM 5-10. For if it is true, it still can help, for it is a scam, I wouldn't lose so much. In your case, however, the man asked for money to by food. WHEN you offered your food and he started to demand more for transport, that is a CLEAR sign of a lie. If I would you, I would automatically turned him down and walked away.
as for you, i would say learn from this mistakes.. assess the situation be4 deciding.. make a limit if you were thinking to donate anything..and do not hesitate to walk away if you smell something fishy..

Teddy said...

I'm shaking my head too.. hehe..

u r so kind!!

but hor, in a big city like KL where many ppl r just preying on others, u shud learn to protect urself lor..

wat r u working as in KLCC?

u r a biomed graduate leh.. hehe... change field?

Mar-Jie said...

oh cher linn, poor thing..
and ppl wonder why courteous ppl are a dying breed. sheesh.
cheer up. we love u for who u are.

Xu Vin said...

cher cher i agree w mj..

U hav a bigger heart than i do. cz i wud hav heartlessly ignored the guy.

its ok in the end u still gave - so u dun hav2 feel bad about being heartless. but u din give up all ur cash or sth which wud be reli drastic (even tho wow u actually considered doing that).

u made 1 person less go hungry that night. even tho he was most prob manipulating u but he must hav bn pretty desperate to do that bcz i'm sure nobody wans to beg unless they were driven to that circumstance w/o proper direction to the correct avenues. love u cher :)many of us wud've faced that dilemma s well.

Penny said...

Haha ;p Think of it this way, he's desperate enough to snatch your food. He must have been hungry, really. I would like to believe that he really needed it.

And trust me, you want to be emphatic. You would rather be someone who's to be taken advantage of, because it means you can afford that ;p (Okay, maybe not always. But we sure have an even mightier supplier in Heaven, whom we call Father right?)

God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to many others!

john said...

this is such a classic KL PJ scene la... it happens all the time.