Have you ever felt the unrelenting guilt of your actions? I have. The “action” is still replaying itself in my head. I cannot seem to think positively even after I rectified my mistake. Why?

I was leaving the Gautrain station in Pretoria trying to request an Uber to get home. I stumbled across McDonalds and I went in, ordered a caramel ice latte. You’re probably asking why I am describing the type of beverage I bought. It plays a significant role in what is about to happen next.

I walked out of McDonalds and tried to find the Caltex garage where I was supposed to meet the Uber driver. I ended up asking some lady where the garage was and she gave me directions. Let me tell you, I am not the best at being directed. I ended up getting lost and at the wrong garage. The sign of the garage said BP and for some reason my brain failed to register that Caltex is different than BP. So while I was walking closer to the garage some man dressed in rags, I couldn’t even look at him in the eyes, came up to me and asked if he could have a sip of my drink.

I shooed him away without saying a word. Then he started asking again and again. At that point I was thinking, “Can’t this guy get the message?”. I walked away from him.

I then called the Uber driver because I was lost and he asked me to tell him where I was.
There was a lady standing in front of me, the man who had asked for my drink a few minutes earlier walked up to her and asked her for amakipkip snacks she was holding. She denied and said she didn’t have money and walked away. The man turned to me and asked for the ice in my drink. I said it is almost finished anyways, while still on the phone with the Uber driver.

When the man asked for my drink again something clicked in my mind. How can I be so stupid? This man in front of me dressed in rags is asking for ice, “a sip of my drink”, he didn’t ask for all of it. How could I deny someone a drink? What if he had no means of water or any type of food. So I gave him the rest of my drink and walked away.

When I found the driver who directed me to the place he was supposed to pick me up, I sat there in the backseat of the car thinking how could I have not given that man my drink when he asked for it the first time? It was not like I needed it. I only bought it because I wanted it. I felt like crying when I got home because that ignorance I had towards the man made me think what if I was in his place – begging for something to eat from a stranger.

On the other hand I thought I was shooing away a person who could potentially steal the phone that was in my hands.

I am not trying to justify what I did. In those situations, we don’t think we act then get a reaction. I should not feel guilty because I ended up giving him my drink, but I do feel guilty because I had the choice to look the person in the eyes and give him my drink.

We do not think about it much, but the level of poverty in our country is strikingly severe. There are people who do not have basic needs such as food, water and a roof above their heads. People who don’t have security. It is depressing.

I do not have anything more to say about it because I need to you to think. I need you to think about a time you could have helped someone and chose to turn a blind eye. Think of a time you had something so insignificant that could have helped someone, but chose not to. I do not want you to feel guilty, but I need you to think. That’s all I ask.

Do you think it would have made a difference?


Tell us: Would you have given your drink in this situation?