Sep 22, 2012

50 TO GIVE OR NOT TO GIVE, WHAT IS THE ANSWER?

The Beggars Hand by Mindy TomTo give or not to give, that is the question but what is the answer? There are many panhandlers, beggars, homeless people, and people with mental health illnesses roaming the streets of Toronto (T.O.). Often times you see people, men, women, and youths with signs on cardboard pieces that read, “I am hungry and homeless please spare some change so that I can eat” or they just come right up to you and ask.

Begging is fast becoming pandemic in T.O. and one can expect on any given day to come face to face with someone asking for money, "spare some change”. The dilemma is, when confronted with someone who seems to be less fortunate than you what do you do. It is heart breaking to see and a vivid reminder of the fragility of life and how one's reality can shift in the blink of an eye.

How can one not feel compassion, after all it’s not hard to image (God forbid) oneself, a friend or a loved one in such a dire situation. But when does empathy override common sense and when is it appropriate to set aside common sense in favour of sympathy for another human being? This is the quandary. To whom do you give? Why do you give to one and not the other? What is the determining factor? What is the reasoning one employ in making such a decision? What are the barometers of preconceived biases secretly held and measured to determine suitability? To give or not to give and to whom to give, that is the question but what is the answer?

It is such a dilemma I witnessed yesterday on the faces of the passengers on the train while on my way to work. It was interesting to see diverse reactions, the hesitation, the judgement, the censure, the disgust, the compassion, the fear, the contempt and the asserted superior attitude.

It was just past 8:20 am when the trained stopped at Broadview Station and passengers loaded off and on. One passenger in particular, a young woman came on and promptly started speaking in a loud voice, “excuse me, can anyone please spare some change, I am very hungry and I need money to buy some food, also I am homeless and it’s very hard living on the streets. Can you please help me out please?” while going from person to person with her hands outstretched.

One woman reached for her purse but hesitated and looked around to see if anyone was giving. Satisfied that some where indeed giving money she retrieved some change and gave it to the young woman. Many others simply sat with their heads in their books, while others looked on with censor and judgements visible on their faces.

Realizing that she was not going to get any more money the woman quickly checked the money in her palm and indignantly shouted, "Come on people, $4! Four dollars is not enough; I need more than that to eat! Can someone give me some change please, please I need more.”

At this point a man 4 seats down to my left decided he had enough and told her, “There are many food banks that will give you food, go to one of them”. The young woman did not answer but instead chose to exit our car and went to the other car where I can see her again working her way through that car with her begging mantra.

I am sure you are wondering if I gave her money or not. I did not. Why you ask. Because I happen to know this particular woman, she’s an addict. Years ago I had an encounter with her when she snatched my eldest daughter drink out of her hand when she was little while we were waiting for the bus. She was not aware that I there, a little off to the side, when I confronted her she attempted to give the drink back. I did not take it back but I had her apologize to my daughter.

Does that mean I won’t' give to someone I think maybe an addict, no, it simply means I know her. It just struck me how much more bold she has become over the years seemingly unafraid to use people's fear that she might be crazy to intimidate as she invades their personal space while simultaneously sticking her hands out and asking loudly "can you give me some change! I need money for food!" It was just frighteningly jarring how calculating she seemed. I suppose after so many years of drug she probably has developed some psychological issues/challenges.

Though frightening I doubt that her display of calculating boldness will stop me from giving; it will render me a bit more cautious and mindful however. Is that the answer, to be cautious and mindful? I don't know as I cannot determine for anyone whether or not they should give or not. I give because I know that not all beggars are drug addicts or alcoholics or lazy, some may be suffering from mental health issues while others may have encountered unfortunate circumstances that render them temporarily homeless.

I have often given out change and on occasion purchased food for the person(s) asking, and I am more than likely will do it again. Why? It’s simple really. I give because I want to. I had one guy that had me in gales of laughter because he approached me as ask if I could spear a penny, I looked up into his face, he was a young Caucasian man probably in is late twenties early thirties and I asked, a penny, what can you get with a penny? He looked at me sheepishly and smiled saying, “well mam I know not everyone have money or much to give so I figure every penny counts.” I opened my red leather change purse just as my streetcar arrived and emptied it in his hands, it totalled $5.00 he looked at me and smiled saying thanks. I said, “Thanks for making me laugh,” bidding him a good evening as I boarded the streetcar.

I was still smiling as I entered the train and then the bus on my way home thinking that smile was worth the $5, silly right? The thing I learned from my experiences over the years with panhandlers is, when you are approached for money; if or when you decide to give, give simply for the sake of giving. Do not foolishly bamboozle yourself into believing that you can dictate how the recipient of your kindness will use the money. They will use it as they see fit whether you approve or disapprove.

So what’s the answer?

50 comments:

  1. This sort of practice of begging we have faced in India.
    Pl. be stritct that not to give anything to unknown person
    unless you know him or he physically handicapped.
    There is another way you give as per your pocket and
    satisfy yourself.

    Cheers
    Tridib

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hmmmmm, this is an interesting concept, the thing though is that there are many kinds of disability and not all of them are visible. thank you for your suggestion.

      Delete
  2. As is your norm, you’re exactly on target with your analysis and commentary on panhandling.

    Hope to hear from you regularly, even though I’m intentionally bypassing opportunities to blog and blogwalk as much as I used to do. Never hesitate to send me a message or e-mail, my friend, OK?

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is totally an individual feeling for them? the place likes in Japan,some beggars used their children to correct
    money from people. it’s very hard to tell just look at from this end to judge the beggars that really needed to
    help or as you said just temporarily homeless? I don’t mine to give to them if I have small coins in my purse.
    I normally drive my car to the shopping where I living in a suburb that you don’t see them.
    They stay in around in the city at night time you will see them.
    This is a interesting entry, I hope many friends of yours coming to read and leaving comments for you.
    Have a nice day,
    Michiko

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    1. Michiko you are very correct, it is difficult to assess a person's need/challenges by marely looking. Like you I don't mind giving however i am guided by my gut instinct.

      Delete
  4. In situations of giving, I think it best to allow one’s conscience be the guide. Having worked with drug addicts and alcoholics, let me assure you that it is better to give knowing what they really want, rather than turn your back on a single person who just might be touched by a gentle smile from you. Some have needs we are fortunate enough to never fully comprehend, but nonetheless, they are needs. To me, there are no limits on compassion or giving in earnest hope that your gift will be used wisely. Great post!! If only we could spend a week in their shoes….who knows the lessons to learn.

    J.W.L.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. hmmmmm, great analysis, walking a mile in someones shoes is not an easy thing to do and not many would want to do such but rather stand by and judge.

      Thanks for sharing your wisdom with me.

      Delete
  5. This is a good question, I think it is a very hard question for some people don’t see how the person really lives and if they are really in need. I know for me I have given food and some money, but have recently learned that where I used to live a person I saw all the time was making about two hundred thousand a year. I thought that really isn’t fair, but hey its not for me to judge how people live because some day judgement will come to all of us and we will be accountable for our actions

    ReplyDelete
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    1. hmmmmm, in life there will always be those that take advantage by captalizing on the kindness of others. I try not to paint everyone with the same brush.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Delete
  6. ohhh thanks for that link…that was a cool pict …yeaa this week also seem to pass without troubling me much as there are only 2 hrs per day..thats coool ha?
    heyy are these books all reda by you? wow quite a wide range…
    hmmm the same story seems to be part of every country and cultrue…there is more than hungry stomachs that need to be filled ha? one never know how and where these people spend the money they get…adn the tragedy is the really deserving ones in he bargain miss out…hmmm..
    have a nice day

    ReplyDelete
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    1. You are absolutely right, there is no way to truly know for sure who is in need and who is not. I think every country has people of all socioeconomic conditions.

      Delete
  7. Like Carl (Chocolate Matters), I often give on a case by case basis. I cannot dictate where the moneys go. I give from my heart. It is usually money, since I’m often on my way somewhere and have no to time to get the food. Today, I gave away a pair of sandals I just happened to have in the trunk of my car. I don’t do it for dividends, just a person helping another.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I believe this is how i operate as well. You have a big heart CM. I always like to say that one never know what hand they will be dealt in life as life changes on a dime.

      Delete
  8. Good evening Fab,
    When I lived in Portland my home would sometimes be covered with kids who had chose the streets as a life. A warm meal was given, some medical attention if necessary, shower, and some clean dry clothes. Never did I give them money.
    When someone comes up to me in the streets…Never have I given them money. But, I have walked them into a McDonald’s (or grocery store) and bought them some food.
    My point is like you shared…Most of the time money goes to drugs or alcohol. It is a vicious cycle for most who have called the streets home. Many people have no idea what goes on out in the streets of the big cities or wants to know.
    I was just thinking this evening about life in the inner city. Those who have no hope. Where one out of three people will eventually will get arrested or die at an early age.
    Oooops!!! I started to ramble but I am glad you shared and I was able to visit. Have a very nice weekend. We are blessed with a lot of little things some take for granted. Thanks for being a Bloggerville friend, Greg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow Mr. G, you were giving a lot, not many would offer a shower or medical attention for that matter. Sounds like you have a big and generous heart.

      Delete
  9. Maybe you should keep your jobs instead of outsourcing them.

    ReplyDelete
  10. as always, a post that calls for introspection.

    I give from my heart. If my intuition moves me to give, I will. If not, I will refrain from doing so. That means that sometimes I have unwittingly helped an addict get their next fix while denying someone an actual meal.

    There are a lot of beggars in the city I live in and if one is not careful, one gets desensitized. I do have some rules - there is an old tradition that calls for Yoruba females that have had twins go begging on the street with their twins - I do not support this tradition and I do not give hoping that if more people do not do so, those poor month old children will not have to face the elements all in the name of an antiquated tradition.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. hmmmmmmm, true desensitization is a factor due to growth and seemed normalcy.

      Tradition of begging due to multiple births? Wow, you learn something new everyday, thanks for sharing.

      Delete
  11. A very nice post that all the readers can relate to.The thumb rule for giving to such roadside beggars should be whether they are handicapped ,ill or unfit for any work that can earn them so money.To give money to healthy but lazy people is not desirable

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hmmmmmm, i see your point. as I mentioned above to Tridib not all disability is visible and as Michiko has stated one cannot always tell by simply looking. I don't think there is any one solution, rather i think as Natural Nigerian says, we should let heart and intuition be our guide.

      Delete
  12. Very good post thought provoking to give or not. Can be very hard deciding what to do as you say , fair enough if they are genuine but how do you tell. I have often given to street buskers , and they seemed very grateful to receive no matter how small.
    Hope you are well and thank you for a enjoyable read.
    Best Wishes
    Sheila

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes it can be, its the reason I let my intution be the guide. Sometimes i don't give simply because i don't have anything to give.

      thanks

      Delete
  13. In Nigeria, we give mostly out of compassion, because you can see the pain or necessity, I don't think I have ever had to bother what the money is used for...but then I moved to India, where the begger decides it is their right to demand whatever amount of money they believe you are to give them. In Germany, I do not even bother because they just use it on drugs or alcohol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hmmmmmm, compassion and empathy yes that is usually the motivator because we all know how things can change so quickly in life.

      wow you do some travelling, it really gives you a 365 prespective.

      thanks for sharing.

      Delete
  14. Great post, Rap. Your insights are very thought provoking and, I agree with you. If you're going to give, do it because you want to and from your heart. How they decide to use it is between them and their God...or not. You will have done your part.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Most of these who beg are addicted, either to drugs or drinks or smoking.
    For them this is easy money and it becomes a habit for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hmmmmmmm, i guess it can seem that way, but in the world of infinite choices i would say though uncomfortable being constantly boarded by those begging I'd say its the lesser of two evils the other being jacking (robbing) people for their money.

      Delete
  16. This was so interesting. It's always a difficult choice. I'm never sure what to do, but often times... I don't because I've always heard it said that people in need should go to the centers where they can be helped. Then again, it depends... sometimes, I give anyway because I hope that it will help.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. For me the thought is, "one never know when the tide of life would change and you are in a unfortunate situation where you need a handout and a hand up."

      Delete
  17. I think we have to discourage begging on our streets, particularly in advanced countries where there really should be no reason to beg. There are shelters, soup kitchens, charities that give old clothes etc. As a mental health practitioner, I've seen people at their most destitute and they don't beg on the streets. They go to the right place and get help.

    Begging has become a form of exploitation of the unsuspecting public. People should be encouraged to use existing options. If a panhandler chooses not to make use of options that do not rob them of their dignity, that is a choice they have made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hmmmmmm, this is a really great point of view and of course you are absolutely right about the shelters, soup kitchens etc, as to why some are not accessing is unknown to the passerby.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Delete
  18. There are no ready answers to your questions.Your giving alms or not is not going to solve the issue of begging. It is a social problem and the local government needs to find ways and means to tackle this issue.
    For example in some of the Arab countries(like Oman where I have lived) begging is a crime - anyone found begging is straight away picked up and sent to jail,given a few lashes and freed after a few days or weeks. There are no beggars in this country. The Government is doing a lot to rehabilitate the poor people,give them work,pay & shelter if they are homeless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. whoa...a country with no beggars, enlightening, hmmmmm, t'is of course a social issue as you have stated. You do make some good points.

      thanks for sharing, gave me some things to ponder upon.

      Delete
  19. I think that it`s important to remember that not everybody has bootstraps, or the strength to pull themselves up. We all need a little help, now and then. And if we don’t, remember there’s always someone who does. Random acts of kindness, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, can boost a person's spirit, change one's life around. A small caring gesture might even be that little something that keeps someone, even a stranger... from giving up completely. I believe there are Angels among us... and as mysterious as our Great God is & this great world He created... you never know if the angel is the one giving or the one sent to receive a gift from the heart.

    But I do know this. I would much rather buy a person a hot coffee/tea... bowl of soup... hot sandwich... give them my sweater... than actually give them cash from my pocket. I have ... and will continue to do so if and when I can. After all, most of us are just a paycheck or two away from being homeless ourselves. I would like to think that someone would extend to me the same courtesy and empathy that I extend to others. I believe in Karma.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yes, am clapping here, i too at times purchase a meal for someone asking, what you have shared is so true and most scarily accurate is that "most of us are just a paycheck or two away from being homeless." just the thought gives me the shivers... burrrrr

      Yeah "what goes around comes around"

      Delete
  20. Very great post about giving. For me, helping the needy is something everyone should aspire to do -If and when they can. Truth is everyone needs a little help sometimes, even friends and family members that we hold dear.

    I give when I feel the need to -not when I feel pressured to. If someone is hungry I'd rather buy them food as against giving them cash though.

    A lot more needs to be done about such social issues though. I can understand adults begging, but when they involve under age kids and sometimes babies into the mix? Now that's just unacceptable.

    Thanks for dropping by :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thanks and you are right all of us at any given time are in need of a hand up.

      Unfortunately sometimes children are the gateway by which adults use to exploit those with giving spirits. it takes all kinds to make the world go round.

      Delete
  21. ────╔╗╔╗╔═╗╔╗╔╗╔══╗────
    ────║╚╝║║╚╣║║║║║╔╗║────
    ────║╔╗║║╔╣║╚╣╚╣╚╝║────
    ════╩╩╩╩╩═╩╩═╩═╩══╩════
    Just wanted to stop by again and check in on you. Friday is almost here, a cause for excitement. Hope you have a great weekend and I'll be back to spy on you later.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Well thank you, what a gentleman you are. You to have a fabulous weekend.

      Delete
  22. You have raised a very important issue about begging. In India begging is usually a racket that is controlled by criminals. They kidnap kids, main them and use them. Babies are given out on rent for the same. It is awful!! I defnitely do not support beggars as such a kind of giving is unsustainable. You might like to watch an Indian movie called "Traffic Signal" which deals with this problem. Danny Boyle's film "Slumdog Millionare"also touches this issue

    ReplyDelete
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    1. "Have mercy on us!" That some can knowingly and maliciously use the innocent to willingly exploit and demean, may the Lord have mercy on us. My heart bleeds at this deliberate madness. I feel such helpless anger at reading this; that a child should come into this world and have to be sold/rented and subjugatedly dehumanized, hmmmmmm my stomach rolls with rage.

      Thank you for sharing, its certainly was eye opening.

      Traffic Signal ok, I'd have to brace myself mentally. I haven't watched "SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE" yet.

      Delete
  23. Wow.dnt even knw wat to say anymore with d all uve explained and d comments but I've learnt frm ds

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hmmmmm, so have I. The dynamics of life's diversity in this situation is mind blowing.

      Delete
  24. This is a dilema i also deal with constantly as to who to give to. After reading the story of a beggar who made about $60,000 a year just from begging i became skeptical of who i give to. if an individual looks pretty normal with all body parts then its just pure laziness that is wrong with him keeping (2 Thessalonians 3:10 in the back of my head)but then how can we determine a normal person and an actual beggar? U.S has so much opportunity that even if you are just hungry there are thousands of places that give free food and clothing. Persoally my reaction to giving varies from countries to countries, in the U.S its questionable to give but say a country like Nigeria, when you see some of the beggars they are so helpless and you get more motivated to give

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hmmmmmm, "therein lies the rub" there are so many that are deliberate and conniving in their begging that it has become difficult to tell the “forest from the trees” making “us” weary cynical, distrustful of those that sit/stand with hands outstretched in the same milieu singing “spare some change?”

      Thought our cynicism is rightfully placed due to the machiavellians amongst “we” must also be mindful to not let our scepticism sway us into lumping all in the same barrel by painting them all with the same brush.

      Thank you for sharing and mirroring some of my very concerns on this issue.

      Delete

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