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Try not to cry

published: 2010-01-23

A woman asks me for help. She has nothing, I have everything. Therefore I say ‘yes’ to whatever she asks. I once told her, “please Laeticia, I’m listening and we can talk about this. So please stop whimpering. You know what? Try to see it like a business deal, okay?”

She tries. Sometimes her voice will lean towards a whine when she asks me something and then she’ll remember what I said.She can’t afford to forget my request. I know why she does it. It’s because she’s both afraid and embarassed at the same time. While sobbing, nobody will get angry at you. I did. Not angry but irritated because her sobbing stood in the way of us ever becoming equals. We could in the very least pretend.
These days, that’s what we do. We pretend. We talk about work and diets and our children or husbands. We compliment eachothers’ clothes. And sometimes she asks me for help. Like today.
Laeticia’s daughter is with her. She’s in trouble. She is a shy girl. When she speaks she sounds like a mouse. She prefers not to talk at all. If I’m in the house, she’ll immediately start scrubbing pans, her bomber jacket still on. She listens to music from the Iphone in her backpocket. She finally arrived here half a year ago. Laeticia hadn’t seen her in seven years. Her daughter had been so scared when interrogated by customs officers that she pooed blood for a week.
I turn to look at Laeticia’s daughter who’s wellbeing we’re discussing. She has stopped scrubbing my sink and watches us. Shyly, she twists her ankle. Then she cries.
And I wonder: is she crying because of the bad situation she’s in and that needs fixing? Or is she crying because she sees her mother asking me for help?

3 Responses to “Try not to cry”

  1. 1005 says:

    Why would you help someone who has nothing?
    When she has nothing, she has nothing to give. When she has nothing to give, you won’t receive anything.
    So, what do you mean with nothing? What is helping (or, who are you helping?).
    You wonder why the daughter is crying. You give two possibilities. You probably know there are more.
    Is giving a form of egocentrism?

  2. alief says:

    @1005 Answer to your last question: of course. But what about the reverse? Someone specifically asks you for help and you don’t?

  3. 1005 says:

    Depends on the (relative) costs and (also relative) benefits (not restricted to physical world).
    Is there such thing as “pure altruism” in human society?

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