I had made some new friends (a girl and two guys) while in college and we decided to go run to DQ for some quick food before our next classes. There was a homeless man outside asking for money, but I only had a few dollars for lunch, so I told him that I couldn’t help. The girl and I had ordered our food and went to go find a table while the guys were ordering their food. One of the guys came back with two bags while the other one went outside with a cup and fries.
I distinctly remember smiling when I saw him walking toward the homeless man while thinking how sweet this guy was for getting the man something to eat and drink. The homeless man looked so grateful and appeared to be thanking the guy. As the man reached out to accept the food, the guy threw the milkshake and the fries right on him. The man looked mortified.
I was appalled. The girl and guy at the table were laughing. I just stood up, said some choice words (not so pretty words), walked towards the other guy, pushed him out of my path while calling him some not so pretty names, and walked out the door. I didn’t see which way the homeless man went and I never saw him again.
Needless to say, I never spoke to those three people again.
My mother and I were walking in Nairobi, when we came across this man who was writhing in pain, sprawled on one of the city’s back streets.
A small crowd had gathered, to witness what was going on. I cut my way through the whispering bystanders, and approached the man. There was another man who was kneeling beside him, trying to feed him milk from a plastic packet.
The crowd was murmuring, with some saying;
“Oh, he is drunk!”
“He probably has AIDS!”
“No, this one might be a conman.”
I ignored them and proceeded to inquire from the man with the milk packet, as to what had befallen his mate.
He told me that the man was gravely ill, the two were heading to the hospital, when he (the sick man) collapsed and couldn’t walk due to the pain.
I asked the crowd if they were willing to make a quick contribution, so that we could get a Taxi to rush the man to hospital. Ambulances here are a novelty, especially to the poor masses. I was greeted back by unsympathetic stares. Some people called me gullible.
Nobody steeped forward to help. A lump formed in my throat, I wanted to cry out of frustration. The sheer lack of empathy from the voyueristic crowd was infuriating. I asked them what the were milling around for, if they couldn’t help the man.
I was met by sneers. I realised that I had to help. I walked to a cash machine, withdrew enough money for a taxi and hospital admittance. I asked the ill man’s friend to help him up, he took one arm while I took the other, and we walked his friend to the Taxi bay. None of the bystanders were willing to help with this either.
The man had been lying on the ground, and as such his clothes had gathered dirt. None of the Taxi men that we approached were willing to drive him to the hospital. A handful of them said the same thing. He looks like a drunkard!
I repeatedly attested to the fact that there wasn’t a whiff of alcohol on the man. Furthermore, they (taxi drivers) didn’t have to worry about non-payment issues, since I would foot the bill. Sadly, many of them refused to carry the sick man, who was by now crying like a small child. My mother joined in to physically support his frail body.
Exasperated, I walked to the last, unwilling, taxi driver, and with tears welling up in my eyes, implored to his moral conscience. He reluctantly agreed: on condition that the man didn’t throw up in the taxi, and half the fare had to be paid upfront.
I obliged. Paid half, gave the rest of the ill man’s friend. Who took the money, and with tears in his eyes gave me 10000 blessings. I told him thank you for standing by his friend, and wished them well.
As soon as the taxi drove off, I collapsed into my mother’s arms and cried—bitter hot tears.
I cried for the man. I wasn’t sure he would survive the night. I cried for my country. Because so many people die without the right emergency treatment or availability of ambulances. Above all, my tears were of anger. Angry at how people can mill around a sick, dying or hurting person, totally apathetic to their plight.
Ps: In Swahili we have a proverb that states: Tenda wema nenda zako. Which simply means, Do good, then be on your way. Don’t wait for people to praise you. The good that you do will always return to your life. It’s the universe ways of rewarding; some call it karma, for others it is a blessing or good fortune. In a nutshell, whatsoever you do, especially to those in need, will always come back to you. Do good.