Sunday, November 08, 2009

Never judge a person by his clothes!

I read with interest the article in the Newpaper yesterday about Madam Cheng Toan Ngor. Madam Cheng scavanges for cardboard boxes and even sleeps on them for fear of losing them. Agence France Presse (AFP) produced a less than two minutes video clip on her plight, on how she has to continue working despite her arthritis, etc.

I was extremely interested in the article, because I had met Madam Cheng before. The first time when I saw her, I was overcome with compassion and wanted to give her some money, but something held me back. There was that grim determination on her face, and she suddenly reminded me of a very old lady in a bus I met some 25 years ago in Edmonton. I had woken up at dawn to take the very first bus to do my part time work as a cleaner. Since I had the keys to the church, I thought it would be lovely to begin my day early, so that I could have more time for my research work in the university library. The old lady was seated at the seat nearest the entrance, and I noticed that her coat was not buttoned, revealing a blouse made of thin materials. It was snowing and the cold air was seeping into the bus each time the door was opened. I decided to help the old lady button her coat, and had a shock when she spanked my hands and boy, was it painful! So much strength coming from a frail, old lady! I was somewhat embarrassed, and fortunately there were only a few passengers in the bus.

I continued the rest of my journey thinking about the old lady. Where did she come from and what was she doing, taking a bus so early on a cold winter day.? I reminded myself that I should never judge a person by his clothes!

Likewise, when I first met Madam Cheng, I suppressed my good intention, and wondered about her. For all I know, her children could be doing well, and like some elderly people, she would prefer her freedom, despite her hard work. My guess was quite accurate for the report revealed that Madam Cheng even owns a private property and has children who are doing well. Her children who care for her but are helpless about her stubborn and independent streak.

I once met another lady, who looked somewhat unkempt with her thick, grayish hair and untidy clothes. She came to view the apartment that I was marketing. There were eight people talking in loud, excited tones in Cantonese, and I thought they were from Hong Kong. I was polite even though I did not understand Cantonese, and tried to be as professional as possible, and when the young couple, who had just started selling insurance, wanted to put down a cheque for the unit, I advised them to hold on. I was worried that having just started on the new line with less than three years experience, they would have difficulties getting a bank loan. I promised them that I would check with the banker first and if they were able to get a loan, I would let them have the apartment. "Even if you have a higher offer?" the elderly lady asked.

"Yes, I keep my promise. My word is my honour, because this is the price my client will definitely accept."

The following day, I told the couple that the bank insisted on looking at three years' of income tax returns on their latest profession, and to my surprise, they said, "Don't worry. My mother will be our banker. She will lend us and pay in full cash for us. Please come now to collect the cheque."

When I went to their home to do the paper work, I was pleasantly surprised by the huge bungalow sitting on 65,000 sq. ft. of land. The mother was very hospitable and served me coffee and cakes, and she told me she liked my transparency and straightforwardness, and taking care of her daughter's interest. She asked me to help her look for another unit for her in the same development.

Hence, we must never judge a book by its cover. We must never judge a person by his clothes and appearance! Sadly, many people are inclined to jump to hasty conclusion!

Gan Chau

1 comment:

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