I’m the kind of person who wouldn’t think twice about wading through a dirty swamp. I even arm-wrestled with guys in my younger days. By all standards, I’m probably the most un-girly girl you can find.

Being in the company of guy friends most of the time means that I’m used to witnessing all kinds of disgusting acts. Hell, I’m even guilty of some of these myself. I mean, I do know my manners, like not burping, and not talking with bits of food spurting out of my mouth. But I would eat food off the floor in an instant as long as it looks clean.

Yet when I saw someone drinking from a half-empty cup right out of a random trash can, I had to look away.

After having dinner with my Mom at Chinatown, we waited for our bus at the bus stop. A frail and skinny old man that looked about 80 caught our attention (and many others). He was collecting empty aluminum drink cans from a trash can. This is a common everyday sight, but it’s still extremely sad to witness. Everyone there who was waiting for their bus watched and scrutinised his every move. Every single one of us there was so much better off than him. Yet all we did was stood there. And stared. And judged.

Then, my Mom suddenly said to me in an urgent manner, “Look! He’s going to drink that!” I turned and saw that he had fished out an item from the trash can. His prize catch? A transparent cup that was still half filled with a white-coloured drink. And sure enough, he slurped it all down. Can you imagine that? I was so flabbergasted I couldn’t help but start tearing up.

Here I am, dining at nice places most of the time and eating myself fat when I’m not even hungry. Not too far away there are people who are so poor they have no choice but to eat out of a trash can! I had never felt more disgusted with myself. Dammit.

We gave some money to the old man and spoke with him for a while. The only family he has left are his two sisters. He has no children of his own. And at his age, he obviously can’t get a job. Come to think of it, he’s not even that different from you and me. At the end of the day he’s just a normal person trying to make ends meet, to survive.

With the impending increase in GST (which I’m very unhappy about), would it really help the needy as promised? Would there be less homeless people sleeping in the cold every night? Would we see less elderly people collecting and selling cardboard and used cans for a living? Or would it simply go towards increasing the salary of our civil servants? Our ministers are already among the highest income earners of their league in the world!

I don’t have much confidence in the justification of such price increments levied on consumers. Despite the frequent fare adjustments (read: hikes) in public transport, I haven’t sensed any improvement in my daily commute. I still wait half an hour for my bus every morning. I still sit in leaky buses that have their own rainy climate. It seems the bus company has decided the best way to spend its money is on useless stuff like TV Mobile and its ridiculous “Flag the bus early” campaign. Argh!

But I digress. The purpose of this blog entry is to highlight the fact that there really are a lot of poor people in our community. And more importantly, we can help them! If you are reading this blog, chances are you are already living well enough to have your own internet connection, or at least the ability to find one.

As of blogging this, I pledge to help by giving a minimum of $2 to every elderly person I see that’s collecting used cans for a living. $2 isn’t much, but it is enough to buy him or her a warm meal. Besides I know if I started off with more than $2, I may not be able to keep it going for long. Who’s with me?

Oh it doesn’t even have to be money. If you’re feeling poor you can always help by giving away food! A pastry from BreadTalk or something. I gave away food a few times before and the recipients seemed just as grateful!

If one out of every five people that read this blog would pledge to do the same, we would be effectively helping *do a quick count* A LOT of people!

What say you? What say you?

(All right since no one asked, that last line is said by Aragorn in the Return of the King.)

News updates

December 6, 2006: Good news! On my way to work today I gave away my first $2 (since this pledge) to an old man collecting cans near my home. He asked if I won the lottery. He also said that for every kilogram of cans he collects, he gets $1.50. $1.50! How many trash cans does he have to rummage through to collect a kilogram’s worth? Those recycling companies are certainly not charitable.

December 8, 2006: This blog entry has been Tomorrow-ed! Does this mean there would be more of us helping the needy people around?

December 12, 2006: Benson, a journalist with the Sunday Times, is writing an article on helping the elderly and protecting the environment. He may be including the $2 pledge as well. So those of you who have left comments would be hearing from him shortly.

December 26, 2006: My $2 pledge has been featured on channel news Asia’s blogtv show. The flying dutchman interviewed me over a 3G phone for blogtv’s special Christmas episode, titled “the spirit of giving”. Check out the interview video.

June 23, 2007: This post has been nominated for the “Most Insightful Post” in the Ping.sg 1st Anniversary Blog Awards.