Sunday, February 03, 2013

The old man who almost made me cry

Who would've thought this "The kid who almost made me cry" would have a follow up.

There's a good Thai food kiosk at SM Makati Food Court called Sen Lek Thai. Their Pad Thai is really good, but it takes them around 10 minutes to prepare it.

Since I was in Makati for an errand, I decided to have Pad Thai for lunch and went to the food court. After placing my order, I took a seat in one of those booth type tables that are scattered around the area.

While waiting for my order, the occupants of the table across me stood up and left. On their table were trays and plates of leftovers. The food they ordered was from KimBob, which is another popular food kiosk which serves Korean food.

A few minutes after the family left the table, an old man came into view. He was short and a bit pudgy, much like Danny DeVito. He was wearing a long sleeved polo with sleeves rolled until his elbows, black pants and black shoes. He had short hair with bald patches, the type of patch that was scattered around his head. He was carrying a black, dilapidated duffel bag, and a big SM Supermarket bag which was bursting at the seams.

He took a seat at the recently vacated table with all the leftovers still uncleared.

Quietly, he took the used spoon and fork from one of the dirty plates. Then, he started eating the leftover rice and chapchae noodles that the previous occupants didn't finish.

By the way he ate, I could tell that he was very hungry. This must've been his first meal for the day, and you could see how much those plates of leftover food meant to him.

It all seemed surreal to me at first, but as the truth sank in, so did my heart.

Here was an old man who didn't have a home and didn't have food to eat. But seeing his dress and demeanor, he was also an old man who wanted to keep his dignity intact. That's why he wasn't out on the street begging for money or food. Despite his hardship, he wanted to remain dignified. For this reason, he was very quiet as he ate the leftovers, trying to avoid drawing attention to what he was doing.

After cleaning up the food leftover on the plate, he found out that the previous occupants of the table also left some fruits, including the seed part of a green mango. And as he did with the rice and noodles, he quietly ate whatever was left of the fruit.

A few minutes later, my Pad Thai noodles arrived. As the server put it on my table, I noticed he craned his neck, looking at my food.

When his eyes met mine, I slid the plate forward to his direction and nodded to him. It was my way of offering my Pad Thai, in case he's still hungry. His reply to me was a smile, then he shook his head and patted his stomach. I took it as his way of saying he's full.

Then, he stood up, gathered his black, dilapidated duffel bag, and the big SM Supermarket bag which was bursting at the seams, and quietly made his way out of the food court.

If I weren't in that busy and crowded food court, I would've probably been crying at that point. I couldn't help but wonder, where is this man's family? Why hasn't he eaten? Where will he get his next meal?

Part of me wanted to stand up, look for him and give him money. But part of me thought that if I did that, he'd probably refuse, just like how he refused the Pad Thai. I think it's part of him wanting to keep his dignity intact, despite of the hard luck he's experiencing.

Honestly, while I was telling Mark about this old man, I could feel tears roll down my cheek. And I feel that if I do run into this old man again at the food court, I'm going to sit down with him and buy him a proper meal.

A dignified, old man deserves nothing less.

1 comment:

Vivi Xu said...
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