While playing with his two young daughters at a McDonald’s outlet on Sunday (Aug 7) afternoon, Syed Zulhelmi spotted an unusual sight – a man crouched underneath a nearby table, seemingly searching for something on the floor.
Curious, Syed decided to observe him for a while more and saw the man, with his hair dishevelled and face unshaven, picking up bits of half-eaten French fries from the ground and eating them, much to his horror.
Next, the man headed to a nearby bin, stuck his hand inside and rummaged for more food, oblivious to some of the diners staring at him.
He was also scanning around the outlet’s outdoor dining area to see if any customers had left bits of food behind.
“I was thinking that this man should not be picking food off the ground and eating it,” recounted Syed to AsiaOne. “I was really stunned, and I kept very quiet.”
Affected by this rather disturbing incident, the 31-year-old public servant posted a 32-second TikTok video about his encounter at Causeway Point on Sunday about how he tried to help this stranger, hoping to inspire others to do the same, he told AsiaOne.
“Feeling really sad to witness such things, I went up to him and ask him not to pick up those foods [sic],” recounted Syed in his video caption.
He told AsiaOne that he approached that Chinese man, who looked like he was in his 30s, and whispered in his ear so as not to embarrass him, that he’d like to buy him a meal.
To his surprise, the man rebuffed Syed’s gesture and walked away to look for more food.
“When he rejected me, I just held back my tears,” Syed said. “He still has respect for himself, and wants to keep his dignity.”
When his wife returned with their takeaway order, the couple decided that they had to help this person.
“My wife and I really couldn’t believe what we just witnessed and we couldn’t stop thinking about how to help him without disrespecting him,” said Syed.
Undeterred, Syed decided that he “[wouldn’t] give up on this” and that this stranger should have “a proper meal for the day”.
Heading to the cashier, he ordered a Filet-O-Fish meal for the man and upsized the French fries, conveying a message to the McDonald’s employee to help pass the meal to the stranger — hoping he won’t reject their offer again.
Syed said he and his family of four then left the outlet.
However, his curiosity got the better of him, and the family returned to the outlet to see if his plan for the man to “get a meal today” worked.
“We walked back and saw him eating at the table where we sat before,” said Syed. “We felt a bit relieved that at least he had one good meal for the day.”
Syed ended his video with a clip of the man tucking into his meal. “Mission accomplished,” he wrote in the video’s caption.
In the comments section, many netizens praised Syed, who goes by the username The Singaporean Arab, for his act of kindness.
One netizen wrote: “I hope more of us can do the same too”.
In his reply to some of these netizens, Syed said that he is “just another human trying to do his best”.
He added that the McDonald’s employee he spoke with also recognised the Chinese man.
Coincidentally, one netizen even said that they encountered the same man and also bought a meal for him, leaving it on the table untouched for him to eat.
Last month, in another random act of kindness, one TikTok user, who goes by the username Snezams, uploaded a video of himself helping a cardboard collector unload the piles of items from his bike so that he could seek shelter from the impending rain.
Snezams said that he did not post the video to show everyone his act of kindness and instead, he hoped it would serve as a message.
“You won’t know the person you help might be at the lowest point of his or her life where they got no one to turn to,” he posted.
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