They say that no good deed goes unpunished.
The four young people who had been so moved by the plight of Serang Warteg owner Ibu Saeni try raising money for her over the internet — and was too successful at it — must be savouring the irony of this saying now.
Here’s how the story unfolded: On Wednesday, Serang city authorities cracked down on Warteg owners who had opened for business during fasting hours. One of the wartegs they raided, with reporters in tow, belonged to 53-year old Ibu Saeni.
TV coverage of the raid showed several officers swooping on a hapless Ibu Saeni behind the counter and putting all the food that represented her entire day’s takings into plastic bags to be carried off to an unknown destination.
Shocked and awed, Ibu Saeni broke down into tears.
Not helping things, the city officials had one of their own explaining unsympathetically to the TV cameras that they raided the wartegs because their owners had violated a city regulation not to sell food during fasting hours.
When the incident was aired and reported over TV and other news outlets there was great outpouring of sympathy for Ibu Saeni, and disdain for the officials who were perceived to be picking on the small businesspeople while leaving the more privileged show ones (the larger outlets and chains operating in shopping malls) untouched.
Amid all the chatter on social media arising out of this incident, four young people – Alexander Thian, Jenny Jusuf, dan Yogi Natasukma and Dwika Putra, (Disclosure: Dwika works in my workplace) decided to do something to help Ibu Saeni.
Since they were heavy social media users and influencers in their own right, they naturally turned to the Net to raise money for Ibu Saeni. They had thought that they could raise Rp10 million, maybe Rp20 million, to help her after the trauma she had been through.
So they appealed for donations. Dwika had an account in BCA that he used for his personal expenses. So he emptied that account and used it as a vehicle for accepting donations to Ibu Saeni.
Then the unexpected happened. The response was so good that the four of them were first delighted then shocked as contribution after contribution came in. When the fund ballooned to Rp80 million they began to realise that the money raised after that mark would be better utilised for helping other victims of the raid. So they used social media to tell would-be donors that whatever was raised after that would be disbursed to other Warteg owners who had also been raided by city authorities.
Still the money kept pouring in and when the deadline for the last donations came they had raised a whopping Rp265 million!
They were touched. They were elated. They were amazed by the generosity of their fellow Indonesians. But they were also getting a bit scared an frustrated.
This was because while many Indonesians were praising them and appreciating their initiative to do something instead of merely tweeting or Facebooking about their frustrations, others have been outright mealy mouthed and nasty about their motives.
It would have been fine if these critics questioned whether it was the right thing to do to try to help a woman who had broken city regulations but the bottom line was much lower than that.
The intentions and integrity of the four were questioned. Hiding behind the safety and often the anonymity of their Twitter and other social media accounts these critics started to insinuate against the integrity and intentions of these four.
Some said that they were Christians out to denigrate Islam, Others that they were out to make a name for themselves on the sorrows of Ibu Saeni. Still others questioned whether they were trying to make a profit from the interest accrued from the interest on the Rp265 million before the disbursement,. And some questioned whether they wanted to insinuate themselves into politics.
It is ridiculous. It is petty and totally unwarranted, forcing one of them, Alexander Thian, to address the issue in his Facebook page.
The truth is sometimes very simple until people try to complicate it. My take on this incident is that you have four young people with their hearts in the right places. They wanted to help an old lady in distress and got off their bums to do something about it.
They made an appeal and the response was way beyond their expectations. So now they have to deal with how best to disburse all that money so that it is not only fair but seen to be fair. There is nothing more to it.
Instead of dumping on them these critics should shut up instead and look into themselves to find out where such snarky, petty and ill-willed sentiments come from. Appropriate topics to contemplate during the month of Ramadan, when the aim is for people to become better human beings.