Wandering about Dubai yesterday, I was approached by a young man who showed me a card with the name of an antibiotic and the price. 'I need you help me. I have kidney failure, and no can work. I have wife and children in Karama. I must have this medicine. You please help me?'
In my home village, we had a charitable organization, but we didn't want our charity to go to the workers, so they were all unpaid volunteers, which meant they all had other jobs, and the charity office was only open a few hours a week. The Charity Officer was required to give regular presentations about how he was spending our money, and at one of these presentations he confessed that he had done a Bad Thing.
The Officer said he had been working at his paying job, and was very busy, but a man found out that he was Charity Officer and came into his office with a story about being desperate, about not having eaten for days.
The Officer said at his subsequent report to the contributors, 'I then did the wrong thing. I gave him enough money for a decent, hot meal, but I'm sure his meal was strictly liquid. I should have gone with him to the Charity Office and made him a nutritious meal, but I felt like I couldn't leave my work.'
So I offered to go to a pharmacy and purchase the medicine. The unfortunate young man then said, in a tearful, sobbing voice, 'You very good man. I have four sisters in Pakistan. I can no longer work and send money. They cannot get married if no dowry. Please, you help me?'
If I'd thought he understood English, I'd have said, 'Don't push your luck,' but I didn't, and started toward the nearest pharmacy. 'Please, we must go that pharmacy,' and he pointed in the opposite direction. So I proceeded with him to the pharmacy he wanted.
It was, as I had expected it would be, closed.
'I very tired. You please give me money, I go buy medicine.'
'Follow me,' I said, and started toward another pharmacy I knew. I also knew that the closed pharmacy had moved to a shop nearby, but took the poor young man another kilometre or so. 'Please, sir, I cannot walk any further,' but I made no response, I just kept walking.
He followed me to the pharmacy.
Written on his card was the name of a late generation, very expensive antibiotic, and the quantity for a week's regime.
I didn't have that much money to spare, so I bought him a day's worth.
'This only two pills. You see I need 14.'
'This is enough for today, and I don't have any more money.'
'I no understand. I no speak good English.'
But with that I walked off. I rather suspect he immediately returned to the pharmacy and tried to sell the antibiotic back to them, but I wasn't around to see if he did or not.