Lending a Helping Hand 

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

Albert Einstein

2 nights ago, while walking back from a dinner, I noticed a man on a wheelchair. It was laden with all sorts of plastic bags of recycled trash hanging from every ‘hangable’ part of the wheelchair. He was struggling just trying to get his wheelchair moving. By this time I had walked past him and was a couple of metres ahead and already regretting not asking if he needed help. I forced myself to turn around and walked back up to him in shame. He didn’t notice me at first so I spoke up and asked if he needed help.

“Excuse me, do you need help?”

“Yes, can you push me past the traffic light?”

I willingly obliged and proceeded to push him past the traffic light. While doing so, I had ample time to examine him and noticed that he had no control of this left arm nor of the 4 fingers of his right hand. His right had was constantly bent awkwardly inward and stuck in that position. Both of his feet were also sort of deformed and the muscles were atrophied. A module in Adaptive Sports had educated me enough to guess it was polio he suffered from. Probably from birth as he looked to be in his 40-50s, that was before our population was vaccinated against it if I’m not wrong.

“Where are you going?” I asked after we crossed the traffic light.

“I’m going home. Very near, turn here.”

It seemed like he was afraid I would abandon him so he just kept giving directions at every turn. After awhile, I sensed that he was assured that I would help him get all the way home. He thanked me and wished me Merry Christmas and a happy New Year and blessings of health and longevity to me and my family. I could feel the depth of his gratefulness in his voice.

We kept going for a good 20 minutes past long sidewalks and rather steep assess ramps at the bottom of some HDB flats. There was no way he could’ve pushed himself up all of these home.

Curious, I asked: “If I’m not here to help you, how will you get home?”

“Just wait until someone helps me. Sometimes midnight, if not next morning.”

Shocked, I asked, “Then why didn’t you ask for help when I walked past you?”

“People these days don’t want to help. I ask they also don’t help.”

Again I was taken aback. I too, had almost just continued on my way home with my head bowed and ‘tail between my legs’ not offering a helping hand.

Finally, when we got to his door I asked if he had the key to the gate but he told me to just push the door inside the gate open.

I was greeted by an old lady whom I assumed was his mother. She was bent over by a hunched back that was so sever that her chin was almost touching her knees as she looked up at us.

My heart broke.

She called out to her husband (his father I assumed) and he came out to open the door. I did not get a thorough view of him but it also looked like he had his own disability. He promptly thanked me and I turned around to head home.

On the walk back, I could not contain the tears in my eyes as I reflected on the incident.

How can so many of us be leading such comfortable lives while others are barely scraping by.

How are some of us living ever in search of pleasure and enjoyment while others have only suffering to accompany their daily lives.

What is fate? or coincidence? Would he have still been there if I had left from the dinner an hour earlier as I had originally intended?

He must have been there, struggling for hours. Furthermore that was a pretty busy bus-stop with a fare amount of people  walking by. Seriously, did not a single soul offer to give him a push?

Humanity. Benevolence. Kindness. Compassion. Empathy.

Are we slowly losing that which makes us human?

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