Three young men get in the bus. They look shabby with their grungy touch of their tattoos covering their arms and legs. They deliberately show off their physical look to get first intimidation, instead of impression, to the passengers.  Having greeted the passengers, one starts to deliver his speech.

“Dear Sir and Madame, we are here not to extort you with violence. We as street children are standing before you to earn for our daily meal. So, we just need your respect and your pennies. No one has ever become poor by giving,” they simultaneously intimidate the passengers. (I just regret that those beautiful words are of the quote used by the famous Jewish girl, Anne Frank, which is uttered by impolite street guys). “You will never bring your wealth to death. You and I are the same. So, take a pity on us and give us some coins,” yells a crook-like young man in dark glasses.

After singing one old Indonesian popular song, they start to move from front to rear to beg some pennies to the passengers. They claim they do not obtain money under duress but in fact they do. I bet almost all the passengers actually are not willing to give money to them. They frankly say ‘No, thanks’, or pretend to fall asleep in the bus. Even if ones give alms to them, they are not heartfelt donation.

Once they got off the ‘stage’, other performers on board have been ready for the second and third turns to beg other pennies. Passengers in public bus could hardly get relief sigh and enjoy relax moment in the bus. Listening to music box from the bus crew is a pipeline dream noting that the driver would be asked to turn off the music when street artists take their performance floor.

The performance, more often,  is maddening every people who heard it. “Keep your day job,” my Aussie friend commonly says in such a condition. But, sarcastically I would tend to say, “Stop singing. I’d rather give you money rather than listen to your terrible voice.” Common sense surely prefers decent music to listen.

However, learning about decent life does not always refer to the posh family with their seemingly happy-go-lucky life. On the other hand, learning about life is neither identical with life of the ill-fated. One should go down to earth by observing a naked life of the street people who run through harsh fighting life.

Almost a year I force myself to go down to earth by accessing public transportation to work every day. Now I learn a lot of values in life. Street musicians, who, sorry to say, mostly act like beggar or crook, would be inseparable parts to any commuter on public transportation. Not to mention, their number sometimes are shocking. Not only adult,  but many of them are youngsters and even toddlers who should hit the road to earn for their living. They commonly range from street children, jobless young men, elderly men,  and even a young mother with her baby. Data reported by Jakarta Social Agency in 2011 shows 7,315 street children which are growing from 5,650 in 2010. I reckon the official figure here is even less than the empirical fact in the street.

In such a suck situation, I try hard to make peace at heart. First and worst, I should bring a handful of pennies, valuing from IDR500 to IDR1000, in my bag every day. I commit to myself that I ‘should’ give them one coin for one performance despite the quality of performance. Moreover, sometimes I give IDR1,000 up to IDR5,000 the some good and passionate performers.

I manage to tame myself first before pacifying the street performers. Taking and giving one IDR500 coin to them is deemed an effective and powerful way as it usually calms them down from their intimidating pitch. Teaching them to behave well does not always cost too much. On contrary, they would show respect and say thank for the penny we have given. They even give the best wishes for us in return. Furthermore, it implies that our generosity and appreciation will in a way prevent the needy young men here to commit street crimes.

Looking at street life here will teach us the meaning of equality. Street performers, young and old, have the rights to be equal to the fortunate ones like us. They have their own dignity and thus we must not look down on them despite their bothersome appearance. We learn to have patience before giving and sharing. Thinking positively, we pretend that we act like a boss who pays street musicians for their living. A penny will create peace between the fortunate and the unfortunate. An IDR500 coin teaches us the meaning of respect, peace, and generosity. *** (Leo Wahyudi S)

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