Monday, December 14, 2009

Warning: "Be Wary of Strangers"

Today, after I bought a newspaper and went aboard my car, an old woman suddenly showed up outside the window and asked me if I was interested in buying some little bags hand-made by her.

"It's just $5 per bag." She said.

I told her that I wasn't interested because the little bags wouldn't be useful to me. Most importantly, however, I don't trust people asking for donation on the streets.

"If you're not interested in buying the bags, maybe you want to make a donation..." she said in a pitiful tone. "I'm doing this for my grandchildren. I'm not lying..."

Despite this, I didn't believe her and started my car and left.

On my way back home, I was glad that I avoided yet another scam. When I thought about it more, however, I started to think that, maybe...


Maybe she wasn't lying.


How bad a person one has to be for her to defraud others using her grandchildren as an excuse? And, after all, this excuse is pretty much a dumb one if it's fake. It's just like you won't lie to your boss that your mother was sent to hospital to get a day off.

I should have at least looked into her eyes to decide whether she was lying.

If it was indeed true that she was trying to earn some extra money for her grandchildren, I'd give her $5, no, $10, in a heart beat.

This is sad, really sad. The news that we read everyday, I bet you $100 that there's at least one piece of them about fraud. Enron. Mortgage meltdown. Bernard Madoff. Whatever. We get the idea that this world has many dishonest people who try to cheat whenever there's a chance.

There's a Chinese mot that says

"害人之心不可有、防人之心不可無"

which translates into

"One shall not try to hurt people. In spite of this, one shall be wary of others."

This is to say that, whenever a stranger approaches you, your "correct" behavior is to assume that s/he is a bad person so as to protect yourself. This was what I was taught when I was a kid and, until today, I still believe that it's healthy to maintain a certain degree of doubt on everything, including people.

But, maybe I'm wrong. This makes me think of how the fathers and teachers in my high school had unconditional trust in us, even though they might not know us well and that we made mistakes all the times.

I feel quite bad about this and hope that the old woman succeeds in selling her little bags to some kindhearted people (sigh, not like me) in that parking lot... I probably should try to hold a neutral standpoint on strangers from now on. They may be scammers but don't judge without giving them the tiniest chance.