When our shop, Chop Wah On was at No. 7, Smith Street, there used to an old lady who collected old card board boxes from the streets in Chinatown to earn a living. Come rain or shine, she was always toiling at her work. It is a marvel to see her tug and pull the card board boxes with her surprisingly strong thin sinewed arms as she pushed her trolley load of card boards. Yet there was always a ready smile on her weather-beaten wrinkled face. Moving from street to street, every day she worked from early morning until the late evening, without any day of rest. Depending on the prevailing price per kilo of the card board she collected, her daily earning was about $10- $12. Just about enough for her subsistent living.
One day it was raining heavily and the old lady was taking shelter outside our shop. She was drenched to her skin. My late mother seeing how tough a job the lady was having, offered to get one of my siblings or me to help her apply for public welfare assistance so that she does not have to go around collecting card board. Her response surprised my mother and me. “ Thank you. No need. I can still work to earn a living for myself. Let others who need the public assistance more than me have it. “
Her response was rather unexpected. But it drew a smile on both the faces of my mother and me. A smile of admiration for some one who showed 骨气。 She was not some one who jumped at the opportunity to get some “free money” from public assistance. She would rather work while she could. Such admirable spirit and attitude.