Thursday, 31 October 2013

Poverty: the closed circle

I dashed into the taxi to the school this morning. 

I wore an old and faded red t-shirt, half jeans with a tear in the right knee and carried a ratty handbag.  That is my grocery shopping uniform.  Yes I take an hour during a weekday morning to shop for groceries as I detest weekend crowds, and I shop more efficiently without a 5yo and a 3yo in tow.  Truth be told, I am better dressed this morning than I normally would have been.  The Husband took a look at the (even more faded) top I had chosen when I came out of the room, and reminded me that I had better clothes than that to wear.  -sulk- My vanity was pricked enough that I went back to change into a slightly less worn, slightly less faded top.

The call from school came when I was paying for groceries.  Medium Boy had small ulcers in his mouth, and he had just recovered from a fever from Tuesday night / Wednesday morning.  His teacher asked me to please come and bring him for a checkup at the doctor’s to see if it was Hand Foot Mouth Disease “HFMD”.   Hence the dash into the taxi after sending my helper home with the groceries.

I caught a glimpse of the taxi driver looking askew at me when I climbed into the taxi.  Perspiring with sweat stains – yes.  Wallet falling apart at the seams – yes. (I was clutching my wallet to see if I had enough cash on hand when I finally managed to hail a taxi).  The kind of look that wondered “Does this passenger have enough to pay?”.  I saw the look.  THEN I opened my mouth and said in my best Standard English “Boss, please take me to xxx.  I need to get my child from school.”  After that, we exchanged pleasantries… talked briefly about the weather, how wet it has been in the afternoons this week.

The nurses at the PD had seen me in all states before.  No raised eyebrows there or meaningful looks.

Why do I share this little story?  Because Perception is Reality.  From a local blogger’s website, I came across this thought provoking entry written by a black in the USA.  How her presentation of self matters.  I reflected for a second… how many times have I passed by such persons right in my neighbourhood… persons who are different, are obviously poor (yes, poverty exists in SG!) and made snap judgements of what they are wearing and how they speak.  And how naïve I am in thinking that a person living in a 2-room HBD flat cannot, and should not, buy and carry a branded handbag, or buy and wear Ferragamo shoes.   It is a human need to belong, to crack open the closed circles (closed to the poor) of the middle class.  That I have been so blind, I who have never had to worry for food or shelter in my life, to judge the buying behavior of another.

The blog entry has taught me to see the deeper reality of poverty.  Those who are born into it, raised in it, worry over the next meal or the next night’s shelter. 

Poverty exists.  I am pondering what I can do to help just one child.  Because that child could have been my Medium Boy or Small Boy.

1 comment:

  1. Haha... I can so totally relate to that incident. For some reason, whenever I am in my worst outfit, messy hair, without a single trace of make-up and sometimes with a fussy toddler, I will somehow always bump into ex-colleagues, ex-boyfriends, ex-classmates or some of my still-single-and-very-glam girlfriends. But I hope it wasn't an episode of HFMD???