Is it even conceivable to have a chance encounter with the same complete stranger, in the busy market alleys of the city of Bangkok, three separate times within 24 hours?
No. But it unfolded in front of my dazed eyes just now. “Why” I’m not sure. Is there a “why” I am definitely sure. There always is. There are no coincidences, I fully believe.
It was last night, past 9 pm. I was returning home after finishing work and my Thai lesson following that. Somewhere around a busy street market on my way home, I suddenly noticed a middle aged man walking parallel to me. He said hi and opened a conversation. He was a tall Pakistani man, quite drenched in sweat, calmly introducing himself, asking me about my name and what I do, telling me he’s been looking for an English teacher job here in Bangkok unsuccessfully “all day”. But Once he said “I’m not a beggar, but my wife and children and I are hungry”, I told myself, “Oh shit, I have a beggar following me.” But quickly I noticed his manners was indeed different. You could tell asking for food or money wasn’t something he would normally do. He was talking with dignity but at the same time with a sense of urgency.
Both of us continuing to walk forward, I told him that I would buy him dinner. Opened my wallet and handed him 200 Baht, which is about $6 USD, but considering food prices in Thailand that has more a value of $20. Politely he received the money and, expressing a lot of gratitude, prayed for me and left. I continued my way through the market towards home, as he walked the other way.
Immediately I started feeling bad for not having given him more. I had a lot more bills in my pocket. As I was buying my own street food, I told myself I had given him more than I was spending on my food right now. But then remembered he had a whole family to feed. Still, with that money he could have fed four people, I told myself.
As I was continuing down my path, the bag of grilled salted fish with plenty of fresh herbs in my hand, the man reappeared in front of my eyes. Waiving at me with a big smile, he was walking out of a 7-11 store with some items in a plastic bag. How is that even possible? He went the opposite way the last time I left him, and now I was on my way closer to home.
Not knowing what’s going on, I yet didn’t waste any time. I had gotten my second chance. I walked towards him, opened my wallet and gave him a 1000-Baht bill. “I’m glad I saw you. I was feeling bad for not helping more!” I said. He was frozen for a bit, then started sobbing. “You’ve made me cry” he said. “You’re a good man. I cannot pay you, but Allah will.”
As I left him, this second time, I was deeply thankful for the universe, for having so quickly turning around the circumstances that had made my heart sad. Feeling indescribably contented, I walked home, as I pondered the episode.
Why was I so happy in this moment, while I hadn’t been particularly cheerful the past few days, even sad at times? Was this man put in front of me to help me in some way?
I pondered a likely possibility of “yes”. He had reminded me that I’m here in this world TO GIVE. NOT TO BEG. If not just for a little time, he made me taste once again how great I am, in my natural state of giving. But lately my mind had been busy with the thoughts of a petty little human body, who’s missing and wants things that others have and enjoy. Acting more like a beggar of life, rather than giver of life, had turned me into a sad little person.
And then came today. I was returning home from work, through the same market neighborhood but at an earlier time. It was around 7 pm. I saw my favorite juice bar stand open, so I stopped for a super healthy, delicious juice. The juice bar lady told me about a pizza stand nearby. Not planning to eat a big dinner, I thought I would just check out the stand for a next time. I did and walked on. After walking out the food stand areas, I suddenly decided “Oh, live a little! Let’s just try a slice.” So I returned to the pizza stand and enjoyed a slice. I finished and, after buying some vegetables from the fresh market, I walked towards home.
As I was nearly at the end of the alley out of the market area, once again the Pakistani man appeared out of nowhere, coming directly to me. How is that even possible, in a busy market street where a thousand people are always walking about at any given time? We were still in the same neighborhood, but this was some 1-2 kilometers away from the two places I had encountered him on two different occasions the night before. Even if he had just hung around in the neighborhood just looking to find me all evening, I don’t see how that can happen so easily.
He came and told me how he had been able to go to the supermarket after I had given him the larger bill that second time, and how he and his family are well-fed today. I talked with him casually, but in my mind I was stunned how I could just bump into him again. I asked “You were just passing by?” And he casually said “Yeah, I was passing by.” “Stay faithful. Good things are coming,” I told him taking my leave. “Stay blessed,” he replied.