The Taste of Respect

16 Feb 2020

One time in a housing estate coffee shop, a foreign labourer was sitting alone at a table that was meant to accommodate a larger group.

A group of Singaporean men came by for their usual dinner and drinks. Their number necessitated the use of the table where the lone man was.

Without a word, the foreign worker picked up his things and moved to a smaller table.

One of the Singaporean men then gestured to the coffee shop staff who saw the move, to make a glass of hot milk tea for the foreign worker.

When the milk tea was brought to him, the coffee shop staff explained that it was from the Singaporean group. The foreign man nodded briefly.

We pay men born in villages to build skyscrapers for us. We pay sons of farmers to scale hundreds of meters to clean our walls. And many who can recite sacred texts in their own tongues by heart were paid by us to pick up our trash.

The foreign worker sat a bit longer and sipped his tea quietly. This is what respect must have tasted like.

Before he left the coffee shop, he asked for a plastic carrier to bring the remaining tea back to his dormitory.

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