AN OLD battered Nissan pulled up somewhere along Petaling Street in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.
What seemed like a daily routine unfolded as a middle-aged man stepped out of the car, opened the car boot and took out a foldable table, followed by packets of food and drinks.
A food station was being set up. It was around 8pm in the evening.
This historical area with its reputation as a shopping haven is usually buzzing with activities and packed with noisy vendors as well as curious foreign tourists, but not so now because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
There was, however, a flurry of activities where the makeshift “food bank” was stationed.
People had converged and were waiting in line to get their share of free food, fellow human beings attracted to the Good Samaritan’s kindness as this might be their only means to nourishment in a time when the dark cloud of the deadly virus hung over humanity.
The old Nissan soon departed. Before long, a white van pulled up in the vicinity.
Two men got out and soon bags of food were seen. Another act of kindness.
It was a pity that their food distribution was not as exuberantly received.
Shortly after handing out their bags to those who came forward, the men resorted to approaching and leaving the remaining food packages with people sitting on the five-foot ways along the rows of shops.
And their job was done.
I was more amazed when yet another party showed up to do their good deed.
It was then that I truly began to appreciate the words of Jennifer Chua, an NGI (non-governmental individual) who shared her experience on Facebook when Good Samaritans had mistaken her for a vagrant while she was chatting with a homeless friend.
Chua said despite being properly attired and wearing earrings and perfume, she was forced to take the food.
“They never asked if I wanted any. When I declined and said that I was not homeless, they said ‘No, no, must take’ and then dropped the food next to me.”
According to Chua, nine groups came to distribute food to the homeless that day, at the same spot in a span of two hours.
She ended up with nine packs of food — two packs of white rice with veggies and meat curry, one Ramly Burger, one packet of keropok lekor, four drink packets, one bun, one mineral water bottle and one pack of syrup water.
She was also offered a burger and a set of keropok lekor by her homeless friend who was sated with all the food.
“I understand that everyone wants to do good. But please do some research before giving out food, ” said Chua, who has been collaborating with DBKL to feed the city’s homeless for over a decade.
As strange as it may sound, offering help to the less fortunate is never as black-and-white as it seems.
Would you give a beggar a couple of ringgit if you knew that the money might be used for cigarettes, a bottle of beer or even possibly drugs?
Some may say no, others may argue that their money can buy the man what little pleasure he can enjoy given his situation, or it can even prevent him from stealing.
Feeding the homeless is an act of kindness. There is no doubt about that.
At times, however, one needs to think before acting even if the heart is in the right place.
Kindness can be misplaced.
To have three different parties, let alone nine, offering food one after another to a group of vagrants in the same area defies common sense, to say the least.
Morning after morning, unopened food packets, leftovers and unfinished packet drinks are seen scattered along the five-foot ways fronting the shops.
The mess created in the aftermath of all these feeding sessions has not only irked Alam Flora workers but also become the bane of the local business community.
Can you blame them for constantly griping about the invasion of rodents and all sorts of creepy crawlies in the area where they earn their living?
DBKL had to take some flak for its restriction on the number of locations where food distribution was permitted back in April.
While their intention was to cut down on food wastage, keep the streets clean and adhere to the National Security Council’s Covid-19 standard operating procedure, many failed to see the repercussions that an uncoordinated distribution of food to the homeless could cause.
Feeding the homeless is an act of kindness. Homelessness, however, is a complex social problem that haunts most, if not all, cities in the world.
It is certainly an issue in Malaysia that requires urgent attention. But that is another story for another day.
For the time being, take note that your kindness can be misplaced when you allow the heart to rule.
Doing the right thing is good, doing things right is just as important.