It could have passed as just another meal, on just another day. But the short few minutes struck a deep chord within me.
Yesterday on my way out to a lesson, I dropped by the newly opened heartlander Clementi Mall for a quick lunch. You can just imagine the scene: a typical day, head out, drop-off near the central to run some errands, grab chow, then be off on a bus again thirty minutes later to the student's place. Due to the hot weather, instead of going to the market I decided to go to the basement of the mall (think aircon) for a bowl of dry mee pok at EAT (Set A: $4 for fishball mee pok + coffee).
So I queued, ordered, got my food (self-service), and sat down on an empty square table. A few moments later while chomping on the noodles I realised the cashier had forgotten to collect payment from me. Just as I was mulling over the temptation of having a free lunch, a small girl, who couldn't have been more than 3 or 4 years old approached my table.
Perhaps I had a 'lonely' look on my face, or perhaps she was attracted to my fishballs. I'm not sure. But she said not a word, simply looked at me with a friendly face and proceeded to crawl up on the seat directly across from me and prop her cherubic face up on her hands, elbows on table. At that point, of course, my first instinct was to say "hello, and where is your mummy?" But she kept silent, simply waved at my food, as if beckoning me to just continue eating, she would sit and accompany me. I looked at surrounding tables, other aunties and uncles had also spotted the girl's innocent act but they all simply smiled and shrugged when I asked if they were her parents/grandparents.
And so she sat there watching me eat for a good 3-5 minutes before her grandma trotted in and spotted her. Turns out grandma was just chatting with a friend outside and the girl wandered in. In a way it was a relief that grandma showed up, since I was beginning to wonder what to do if after I finished my meal the girl was still sitting there with no guardian in sight. When grandma wanted to bring her away, she silently followed, but very reluctantly, all the while looking back at me while walking away, as if to say, "so sorry I have to leave you alone..."
I finished up my food, decided to be an honest customer and approached the counter to pay. The cashier thanked me repeatedly for helping him, and I went off feeling like I had been shown kindness, and had showed kindness myself, all in a span of a lunch.