Saturday, 18 October 2014

Just a pack of tissues

I don't know what made me do it.
I was on the train when she walked quietly past me and put a pack of tissues on the table. A pack of tissues with a note. The note said she was a single mother without work who was struggling to pay the rent and buy food for her small daughter. A plain statement of facts. Facts followed by the request to buy the pack of tissues.
Of course, they might not have been facts. I had no evidence, no proof of her circumstances.
She was just a quiet, nonthreatening presence on the train.
Handing out packs of tissues for sale.
Price left to my discretion.
A few minutes later she passed by again. Still no words just a questioning glance as she picked up the note.
I handed over the money and she gave me the tissues, speaking the only words in the transaction, "thank you".
I have wondered since then.
Why did I buy those tissues?
I had my usual stock of balsam tissues in my bag.
I did not know her.
I could not tell if her story was true.
So why, on this occasion, did I hand over the money.
Was it her quietness and gentle approach?
Was it because of the child (real or imaginary)?
Was it because the product was useful?
Was it because she was a woman?

I don't know.

All I know was in that moment, I felt it was the right response, the only response to make.
A drop in the ocean of human need.
No great altruistic act.
The simple purchase of a pack of tissues.

But she stays in my thoughts and I pray for her and for her child.