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Monday, November 26, 2007

Are you being scamed by Bums, Beggers, and Baggers.

Today I passed an old man begging on the side of the road. The scene triggered an internal conflict that I have wrestled with on several occasions. To help or not to help? and what action is really going to help, hence, how bad off is this person, really.

As I sat in my car feeling that twinge of guilty trying to sneak in, I thought back on my European adventure. I had backpacked across 10 countries on a shoe string budget. I had many people assist me without having to beg, or even ask. But I did have one encounter with a beggar.

I was in Hamburg rushing to get to the train station. As I was walking down the sidewalk a bum came up to me and asked for help. I was now faced with the moment I had discussed at great length in Ireland with some Aussies, who had been to India and dealt with many beggars there. Their rule, don't give bums a dime. Their reasoning, in India, mothers mutilate their children so they can make more money begging. So by helping beggars you are enabling this behavior. So, back to my beggar in Hamburg. I was going to take him over to a fast food joint, but I did not have time due to my train. So, because I was having a hard time to say no, I started to give him a $5.00 bill. As I extend my hand holding my hard earned money toward him, my little voice was just nagging at me. As he grabbed the other end of the bill, I squeezed it harder so he could not take it. He look up at me and it was like time stood still, both of us holding opposite ends of this five dollar bill. I said to him, "Uh, I need you to know this is not my money." Mind you, I was just kind of going on about this money off the cuff, so to speak. He looks at me with this confused look. I say " It is God's money, and you will be responsible for it." Oddly enough, he did not want the money anymore.

Once I was back in America I have, for some reason, paid close attention to beggars and bums. I have watched some of them scam folks, and I have seen some that honestly need help. One of my Cop friends told me of an account where an old bag lady had died due to exposure on winter night. As he was taking an inventory of her shopping chart, he found $40,000.00 dollars "squirreled" away. Why did she choose to freeze to death when she could have gotten any hotel room for the night?

Why do we give them money when they need so much more? Is it so we do not feel guilty?, here is some money now go away so I do not have to deal with this ugliness? We do not help by kicking money their way. Do we honestly think they are going to apply the funds to some wholesome endeavour? Are we that naive? Why does it bug us so when some one walks up and asks for money? For me, it is because I feel that I work hard for mine and giving it away to fuel some form of abusive behavior angers me. But then a part of me actually cares for those who need the help, but the help they need I can't give. Just some thoughts on my way home today.

I think the guy in the picture picked a bad begging campaign motto. All the HTML coders I know make way more money than I do. Does he look like he could code? Anyway, I digress.



storyteller said...

This is a subject I reflect upon often. With homelessness on the rise in America, it's not easy to ignore the issue. Watching a few friends and family members lose everything (quickly and for the most part through no fault of their own) and wind up living in a car (and/or move in with family or friends ... even ending up on the street or in shelters for brief periods of time), I find myself looking at these folk with compassion. I know some are scam artists, but some are truly in need. I try to listen to my heart and follow it's lead. Sometimes I give. Sometimes I pass by offering a prayer for their well-being and recovery. I do like your statement about it being God's money.

Typing this here, I'm reminded of a time about 15 years ago when I encountered a woman with three young kids who asked for money outside a supermarket. I told her I'd get her some food, went in the store, bought a loaf of bread, some peanut butter & jam, milk, paper plates and plastic utensils. The friend I was with told me I was wasting my time, but I figured I could take the stuff home if need be.

He laughed when we got back outside and found the woman & children were nowhere to be seen, and I was feeling a bit foolish until an older man approached and asked for food. I happily gave him the bag and we went into another store. When we came out, this man was sitting on the curb surrounded by friends ... sharing his bounty. Just remembering this incident brings up the rush of feelings in that moment. My friend never gave me a hard time about generosity again ... and I've trusted my instincts ever since, realizing that things don't always work out as planned, but they DO work out :)
Hugs and blessings

Rineez said...

I hav also came across such situation many times.
India does hav lots of beggers
Will need a revolution to change the situation here.
I think the reason is most people are not ready to spend even a little time and end up giving away money without second thought to temporarily escape from their guilty conscience.
I think your way is right.
Giving away money doesn't help and not giving also doesn't change anything. Giving in the right way is what we can do. And it takes more of time and effort than money.

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