I’m in Bangkok right now to catch up with some friends. I was having coffee with a friend yesterday at a Starbucks here when I saw the longest queue I had ever seen in a Starbucks anywhere. I had to queue some 20 minutes for my coffee but right after me the queue piled up. It went like a snake all the way out of the outlet and on to the road. It’s like everyone needed Starbucks coffee to wake up. The whole hour or so I was at the outlet the queue never got much shorter. People were constantly adding to the queue. Must be great to own the franchise there.
I was seated by a window having a coffee and a cinnamon roll with my Thai friend. I was explaining something to him when suddenly I got distracted by something outside the window. Outside I saw this little boy sitting innocently with a paper cup in his hand begging for money.
When he got up I saw his face. He had the look of innocence in his eyes and he could pass for any cute little boy we know today. The only difference between the cute little boys we know and this little boy is…. this one wasn’t in school when he should be. He was out on the streets begging for money.
I immediately wanted to get up and go give him some money when my friend stopped me. He said his mother was somewhere around watching him and giving him money would just encourage her to keep forcing her son to do this. So I held myself back. True enough some 20 minutes or so later I saw his mother come by. She collected whatever money he had and sat with him for a while then left. My friend estimated that they made RM100 -RM200 a day or RM3,000-RM6,000 a month from this.
Throughout the whole time I sat at that Starbucks window I kept getting distracted. I kept asking myself all these questions… why is that boy not in school? why is his mother doing this? why can’t she find a job and support his son?
I knew whatever the answers were, I would never be able to understand them.
Then suddenly I saw an act of kindness. A kindness different from the kindness he had been getting from the other strangers dropping coins or small notes into his cup. A man dressed like he was on his way to work, came by and gave him a plastic bag and left. Inside the plastic bag was a small bottle of chocolate milk.
The boy took out the bottle of chocolate milk in a hurry, pierced the straw through the top and immediately started gulping down the chocolate milk.
It then dawned on me that the whole time he didn’t even have anything to drink.
I told myself that if I can’t give him money, I would do the same. After I was done with Starbucks I would go to the nearest supermarket and buy him a drink and some cookies. By the time I left Starbucks though he was gone and nowhere to be found.
Still this made me reflect on my life again. On how lucky so many of us are. If you’re reading this blog, if you have a Facebook account, if you care about politics, if your main stress is whether you will do well in exams or your job… you know you’re a lot more fortunate than this little boy here and his mother. Their only thoughts are probably on where there next meal will come from. Or when he will get to drink his next bottle of chocolate milk.