An Act of Charity

A young mother with her malnutritioned two year old son has staked out a begging post at the entrance to the BTS Metro station at Ekkamai. She is unwashed, unshod; she looks about fourteen and her son, similarly covered with the dirt from the busy street, is always either sleeping in her arms or playing in a discarded styrofoam box. She holds up a dirty plastic cup recovered from the trash for her begging; a few, but only a few stop to drop a few coins into her cup.

I give her 20 baht whenever I pass. She sees me coming and smiles, knowing that I will stop as I approach, that I will turn away from the pedestrian traffic and reach into my pocket for a small banknote for her little family. The little boy never smiles.

Last night she was still at the station when I returned from dinner around 10 pm. There were few out at that hour; her takings at that time would be few. I slowed my pace and waved. She smiled.

Her son looked at me and gave me the finger.