Reciprocity ~ Words For Moolah


A few weeks ago I ran into a former neighbor of mine. This happened while I was visiting relatives at the old neighborhood where I grew up. I was just whiling away the time in front of my auntie's house when this person came up to me. It was a pleasant encounter considering that it's been more than a decade since we last saw each other. However, all the time we were talking I was struggling to remember his name but I just couldn't.

Most people in my old neighborhood belong to the low income bracket. Most of them are in fact informal settlers or squatters. This particular person is one of them. I know for a fact that he used to live in one of the shanty colonies in our community.

I first encountered this person when I was still a college student. We would often run into each other on our street. I must admit I used to look at this person with contempt and distrust. It's not because I was prejudiced against the low income members of our community. It wasn't anything like that. I was just annoyed by his habit of looking at me as if he were sizing me up. The idea of confronting and challenging him to a fight crossed my mind many times back then. Fortunately, it didn't get to that.

A few years later, I got my first job as a production assistant at a film production company. One time our production manager asked me if I knew someone who would be interested in working as a utility man. It was a small job with equally small pay but it was still work. For some altruistic reason, I thought I'd offer the job to this person.

One night I decided to do just that. I knew he had to pass by our house to get to wherever it was that he lived. It didn't take long for him to show up as I had anticipated. When he got in front of our house I approached him and introduced myself. I remember he was a little confused at first that I was talking to him. I guess he thought I was going to confront him for those times when he gave me the evil eye. Anyway, I told him that I was just going to offer him a job. I informed him that the pay wasn't much for a utility man and that he would basically be at the beck and call of everyone else like a house helper. He accepted the offer. I guess he really needed the money.

During the time that he worked with me in that film production company I got to know him a bit. He turned out to be a decent person who just didn't have the same opportunities others like me enjoyed and perhaps took for granted.

My neighbor got to work in that company for just a month. When production of the movie we were filming ended the company let go of its contractual workers. As for me, I got transferred to another production unit. From then on I would just occasionally run into this person. Sometimes I would invite him over for a drink together with my cousins and other neighborhood buddies. All these until about ten years ago when our family relocated.

During my recent encounter with this person, I got the impression that he had become more destitute. He had that homeless look -- soiled, tattered clothes, grimy skin, the works. Yet despite his seemingly unfortunate circumstance he seemed happy and completely without any bitterness.

He engaged me in some small talk. He asked me how I was -- just the usual. It was all too trivial that I can't even remember much about our conversation. However, before he went on his way he did something quite meaningful. In a rather embarrased way he offered to share the small bottle of gin he had just bought. Here was a man who probably haven't had a decent meal for some time offering to share with me the only thing he had.

I politely declined the drink and he went on his way.

Maybe I'm just reading more into it but I really got the feeling that what he did was more than just offer me a drink. The way he said it he seemed as if he was trying to say thanks to me for the little help that I gave him more than a decade ago. I really can't say for sure. In any case I'm thankful that chance encounter happened because it reopened my eyes to the cosmic truth that doing good always has its rewards. It may not always be much or even of equal weight to the original act of kindness but, if you care to look closer, you would see that the reward is almost always something truly meaningful.



  1. moving.

    sir laurence, you might want to send this story to readers digest's "my story". you could get $500 dollars for it. =) visit

    on March 8, 2009 at 4:17 AM  

  2. laurence said,

    will check it out. i need the moolah. ty.

    on March 8, 2009 at 7:29 AM