This auntie did not give her name.
She was selling tissues and was doubled over under the weight of her load.
When offered extra money for the tissue she got upset. She didn’t say it but the message was clear: she doesn’t want charity. She wants to earn her money.
A lesson learned: dignity before charity.
A lot of people I have met while walking around have a similar work ethic. They may be willing for you to say “keep the change” when you hand them $2 for three tissues packets (the going rate is $1). But if you try hand over $10 for the same amount it crosses a line.
But not everyone
It’s worth pointing out that while this work ethic is true of many people, it is not universal.
Some of the people I’ve spoken to have had many job opportunities (usually to work as food court cleaners or other similar manual labour) but make all sorts of excuses for why they can’t work.
There is in fact no shortage of demand for cleaners. And while it’s not well paid work, it seems likely to pay more than selling tissues.
To many, those who refuse paid employment are simply lazy. They are the cutting edge of the dreaded welfare state where everyone sits around waiting for a government handout – a rot that leads to the decline of the economy and the nation.
But in some cases people need even more fundamental support than a job:
- can they read?
- do they have an IC?
- have they ever had a bank account?
- do they have undiagnosed mental illness?
- are they estranged from their family?
- do they have a place to sleep?
It is embarrassing to admit that you don’t have the most basic skills to cope with modern life. Living rough on the streets is to some a more dignified option than admitting you don’t have the ability to fill in a job application or have never had a bank account where your wages can be paid.
Estrangement from the family also has a knock-on effect in terms of the availability of state support.
In order for a person to get financial assistance, their families are expected to be the first port of call. Meaning that if you were to apply for financial assistance, your family members – parents and siblings – would get means tested. If any of them is above the threshold, they would be expected to assist you instead of the state.
This stops many people from seeking help. Whether they don’t want to bother their family or they are embarrassed by how low they have fallen, they would prefer to avoid this process altogether.
I’ve not proposed a solution here and there may be no good one.
All this is simply to say that the reasons for a person not showing the same fortitude as our unnamed tissue auntie can be myriad and shouldn’t be so easily dismissed as laziness.
And as for these awesome aunties and uncles who press on: jia you!