Monday, July 09, 2007
Giving to Beggars
The other day, I was reading Asparagus' postings about beggars [http://www.nebupookins.net/] and it reminded me of something similar happening to me.
Normally I don't give to beggars, especially if they have a dog with them, but I don't try to look away or avoid eye contact when I walk past them either. Last week-end, I was shopping at Kim Phat, a popular Oriental grocery store, when I noticed a Caucasian woman motioning me to approach her. She was disheveled and stoned looking, and even though it was very hot and humid, she was wearing a dark full-length cowboy duster , which I assumed - maybe unfairly - she was using to hide the stuff she has been shoplifting. I approached her and she said: «I'm looking for frozen cuttlefish.»
Now every non-white will tell you that whiteys in ethnic restaurants or stores have a habit of ordering around non-whites that happen to be walking by or standing near them, cause they expect us all to be staff and not customers, so I wasn't that surprised or upset. I just picked up a slab of frozen cuttlefish and handed it to her.
She just held it with an embarrassed look and said: «I don't have any money». I thought: For crying out loud! Of all the dummies in this store, why'd you have to pick me!? But I simply said:
- Is this what you want? The cuttlefish?
- Yes, I want this.
- If I give you five dollars, will you be able to buy it?
- Oh yeah, five dollars' s plenty.
- OK, then here's five dollars. Enjoy your cuttlefish tonight.
- Thank you! Thank you!
- It's ok, don't mention it.
I turned away and continued my grocery shopping. My friend Elton John (not his real name) who was with me said: «I bet you she's gonna buy drugs with it». I didn't really care. Then, as we were walking to the car with our groceries, the cuttlefish woman ran after me and cried out: «Can you give me some money for the bus?». I burst out laughing: «Man, you're gonna squeeze the lemon till the last drop? Sorry, ask someone else.»
So to the question du jour: «Should one give to beggars?», the answer is yes and no. In a rich country like Canada, whether you give to beggars or not depends on your mood. Nobody will starve from a lack of alms. But in Third World countries, the few coins you refuse a beggar can mean his or her one meal of the day. Or it could mean that they have something to give to their begging pimp and will be spared a beating that day. So by all means, give a few coins to anyone who asks. And when you run out of coins, don't feel guilty.