Monday, July 09, 2007

Giving to Beggars

Stephen Chow demonstrates the "Sleeping Kung Fu" in King of Beggars

The other day, I was reading Asparagus' postings about beggars [] 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.


kca said...

C'est tout le probleme: tu donnes la main, on veut te bouffer le bras.
Ca me rappelle aussi un mendiant qui habitait en bas de mon immeuble en France.
C'est juste avant la veile du passage a l euro.

Le gars avait l habitude de demander:
"Eh mec tu n'as pas un franc stp?"

le lendemain du passage a l europe, le mec me voit et me demande:
Eh mec tu n as pas 1 euro stp.

Ca m' a franchement mit les nerfs, j avais envie de la baffer le mec, moi etudiant je me prenais la tete a rentrer les ronds pour payer les factures et lui machinallement qui me demandait 1 euro (soit 6,5 fr) toujours a rien foutre.

Desormains je ne donne plus au mendiants, car je ne supporte pas, surtout ici, le coup qu ils font de te mettre le dos contre le mur en public.
Il y a une difference entre toi et ta conscience qui se decident a donner, et une tierce personne qui cherche a recevoir.

Je prefere donner au vrais pauvres: ceux qui sont dans le besoin, mais par fierte preferent crever de faim que de mendier.

binSchmidt said...

A nice little story and quick consideration of this issue. I'm an English-as-a-second-language teacher in Nanjing, China. Would you mind if I used your article as a talking point in class?