Monday, December 17, 2007

Helping others should be unconditional

Urban poverty is often compounded by the lack of family and social support.


Star,December 17,2007

A WOMAN who had been donating a few hundred ringgit a month to a patient with a chronic illness recently complained to me: “I met X’s sibling the other day at a function. The couple are members of an exclusive club. They ordered a bottle of expensive wine right in front of my eyes! And I have been saving my money to contribute to X’s medical expenses all these months! Am I a dummy or what?”

The woman withdrew her monetary support for X, who is now struggling to pay for her medication. Her illness makes her tired easily and she cannot work for long hours in an office. No employer would hire her as he will have to bear her medical expenses. Her husband earns RM1,800 a month for the family of five.

Several of X’s siblings are well-to-do. Sadly, they do not help their sister. The few hundred ringgit that X needs every month could easily be covered by them if they pooled their money.

There was another case involving a computer donor. Y, who has a chronic illness, has attempted suicide several times. She wanted to die so that her elderly father would not have to work so hard to pay for her medical expenses. She was sent for a computer training program to enable her to work from home.

When the computer donor brought the computer to Y, she was shocked to find that Y was living in a two-storey house with an electric gate. The donor thought that she had been duped.

But Y was living temporarily with her elder sister, who had just married. That was the father-in-law’s house that the donor saw. Y’s family is poor, but her father saved enough to give a dowry to marry off the older girl so that she would not have to live in poverty. The groom’s family house was newly renovated to give a good impression to the bride’s extended family.

Sadly, no one chips in for Y’s medical needs, except for her elderly father, who is a driver.

X and Y are typical examples of poor urban women who are desperate for help. Most of their friends and relatives are just as poor as them. Those with well-off relatives are not getting the kind of assistance that the public thinks they should get.

Those of us who are involved in helping the poor find it hard to explain their situations to potential donors.

Most of these women have chronic illnesses that require expensive long-term treatment their families cannot afford.

The public thinks that government hospitals pay for everything, not realizing that even monthly charges as low as RM200 is a heavy burden for urban poor families with an income of RM2,000 and below for a family of five.

The misconception that people are poor because they don’t want to work hurts home-bound patients and disabled persons who want to work. They can’t find jobs that allow them to work from home.

I was in a shopping mall a few days ago. A group of foreign workers were admiring the Christmas decorations. One of them said to me: “Your country is rich. I wish I was born here!”

I smiled. A song that was very popular in the 1980s came to my mind – Do They Know it’s Christmas? It is a song that appeals to people not to forget about the poor and the disadvantaged in the season of giving.

I wonder why nobody is singing the song. Is this why people like X and Y are forgotten in the midst of such abundance?


It Christmas time again and it a time of giving.The above 2 real stories should make us reflect on our charitable actions towards others who are in need.Many of us are kind and generous and willing to help those in need. When we realize that those we help are neglected by their rich relatives we get upset and angry.We stop helping them as we feel they are taking advantage of our generosity.Are we right in doing so?

Then there is the second scenario which we also encounter very often.We know they need help and we are in a position to help but hesitant because we are afraid that we may set a precedent for future abuses by others.So we refuse aid even to those in desperate need for fear of the future.Is it right for us to withhold help to those in need for fear of others?

What if Jesus had refused to come into the world to save us knowing that many of us will refuse to follow Him?

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