MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Monday, June 29, 2015

To give or not to give

Our experience with those who misuse our donations often make us miss the truly needy causes standing right in front of us.
Last Sunday, I went to the weekend bazaar at Amcorp Mall to buy some classic Hindi songs. As I entered the outdoor parking lot, I noticed shoppers streaming in and out of the mall – their arms laden with shopping bags.
While I waited at the roadside for a parking spot, my eyes caught two women at the mall entrance – donation boxes in hand. At first glance, I thought they were the typical ‘donation collectors’ we see frequenting our local makan places. Those with stories of orphans to be fed, underprivileged people to be saved and mosques to be built.
I remember donating once to a blind man with an OKU card. A couple of hours later I bumped into him at a bus stop. He had a phone in his hand and was texting!
Another time, a middle aged woman persuaded me to donate to a charitable organisation she volunteered for. Her stories made me curious. I decided to check out the organisation and drove to the address on the receipt she gave me. It did not exist!
A couple of months ago, a man approached me for money – he had missed the last bus and had to catch a cab back home. I felt sorry for him and doled out RM20. A few minutes later, I saw the same guy in the queue at McD, proudly holding up my RM20 note!
I guess these people are really good at what they do. That explains the story of the one armed man who makes RM400 a day simply by going from restaurant to restaurant, begging. My God, RM400 per day means RM12000 a month. Even if his handler was entitled to half of what he made, this beggar’s share of RM6000 a month puts him well above poverty line.
I continued to observe the two women at the entrance, thinking them no different from the lazy baboons I had encountered.
Something was different in this case. These two neatly dressed women seemed nice. They greeted everyone who passed by with big smiles even though not one stopped to talk to them. They never chased anyone down for donations.
I was intrigued. As soon as I got myself a parking spot, I purposely walked past them.
“Hello, please help single mothers by purchasing our cupcakes.”
“Good afternoon, get our cupcakes and donate for single mothers.”
I peeked into the bags beside them. Business was bad – they were still full of cupcakes. I grabbed three boxes (three big cupcakes in each box) priced at only RM10 each, and started to chat with them.
I learned that they belonged to a small group of single mothers who cooked and baked as a means of survival.
“How is the reception so far? I see most people walking past you shaking their heads.”
“Not too bad. Once in a while someone will stop to buy.”
“But you still have so many more cupcakes to sell. Is it usually this difficult to get people to buy your cupcakes?”
“Sometimes. But people aren’t that bad. We’ll just wait and try to sell some more. I’m sure there are people who will buy our cupcakes.”
I must say I was very pleased at their response.
Two hours later, I found the tudung-clad ladies still at their spot outside the mall, patiently trying to sell their cupcakes to folks who did not even bother to return their smiles and greetings, let alone buy their chocolate chip, dark chocolate and vanilla flavoured cupcakes.
I find it sad that in this holy month of Ramadan, we are willing to spend lavishly – breaking fast at luxurious buffets, impulsive buying – yet we can’t find it in our hearts to help two women who are not just begging for money but trying to make a living.
As I walked back to my car, I couldn’t help but wonder – “Why are we more generous with beggars than with those struggling to make ends meet?” Surely those who are making an effort to survive deserve our assistance, no?
After all, what is the point of paying zakat fitrah to the religious department to be used for the needy during Syawal when we don’t bother to help those who stand right in front of us?
I dunno about you, but personally, I’d rather give my zakat fitrah directly to the more deserving instead of a third party who may use it to beautify their offices with more potted plants and flowers.

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