This is the debateably one of the toughest struggle the average man wages inside of himself at the sight of a beggar: To give or not to give? Why should I give to others? Why should I forego a specific need to help another? Why can’t they work? Why won’t the government provide an enabling environment for people to work and earn a living? Why, why, why?
It is okay to feel this way, to feel even the slightest bit of frustration at the sight of another man begging without pride. It is fine to want him to work hard–afterall hardwork is ‘always’ crowned with success. It is a normal human instinct to feel just a bit wary of parting with your ‘sweat’ to a total stranger. It is all fine because we are human–just like the beggar out there.
A few days ago I asked a group of people of their thoughts on giving a helping hand. I asked if they gave; to what degree; if they segregated recepients of the fruit of their labour; and their general feelings about giving to the poor. I received answers which I can only term as ‘human’, not because I shared their sentiment, but because I understood. The one thing almost every answer had in common was the need to give to a specific set of people–people whom the society have so graciously bestowed upon the honour of being termed “those in need”. Of course by our standard there are those who need more than others–those who have no means of helping themselves–the orphans. And so I wonder, what about the rest of the world out there who really cannot fend for themselves? Should they be left without help simply because they lack the privilege of having a beggar’s crest upon their breast?
But I understand. I understand how difficult it is to give in a world as perverse as ours. Why it may seem too much of a trouble to part with gold, or help a man who may or may not be out to rip you off your money. Truly we live in dire times where people have mastered the mummers trick, they put on a shade and become something and someone they are not. It is a world filled with people who have sold their pride and integrity for a few pennies. People who deliberately put their children in self degrading positions to draw sympathy from others. People without self respect. It is a morally decadent world, we recognise this as people and so that part of us which yearns to help slowly shrinks away until there is nothing left.
A couple of months ago I realised a certain shift in me. Normally everytime I walked past a beggar–whether of the physically challenged or healthy variety– without giving something of my lose change, I would feel this wave of guilt wash over me. Often times I would double back just to make it go away. One day I came to the awareness that the person, the one who would feel guilt was gone. She just didn’t care anymore if a bantu was filled with money or not. She would walk past beggars–rows of them and not bat a lash while walking by. She would assess people lined up seeeking for alms….she’d say to herself “he has his two legs and has lost only an arm. He can work. Or she’s absolutely healthy, but lazy”. She was me, me at my deepest core. I felt ashamed. I felt I had betrayed myself. I felt I had lost my humanity. I had gone from this person who would help first and ponder later if the ‘beggar’ was genuine(if he were of the healthy variety) to some sort of analyst. I wanted her back. So I went on a soul searching mission, then I realised a hidden truth: I lost myself the moment I began to think like everyone else. I had traded my identity and replaced it with the socially acceptable standard. I had forgotten what it felt like to be at the receiving end of the giving pool. I had redefined myself and in the process lost my way.
The day we cease to think about one another, is the day we start to lose our humanity.
There are undeniably people out there who have felt or are feeling what I felt. Who think they have buried some part of their soul. It is okay to feel that way– it is your humanity speaking, struggling to be freed of it’s chains. Let it out.
So why give knowing there are dishonest people out there? There may be dishonest people, but there are also those who really do need a hand somewhere in the mix. Do it for them. Why can’t healthy able bodied men work hard to earn a living? Anybody can fall into a situation like this. It isn’t always their fault, there is a reason unemployment is defined. Besides hardwork doesn’t always pay. Some people are just the unfortunate product of a failed system.
If I gave to every beggar out there I’d be broke in a heartbeat. The reason you work is not farfetched. It is to provide for yourself and others in need. So when next you earn that income, make provisions for the less privileged. You must not give to everyone you see, but give with the aspiration that someday you wish you could help everyone.
The world we live in makes it difficult to do good to others, especially when it is always taken for granted and you end up suffering for it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do good anyway. It’s what makes you different from everyone else: Your ability to stay sane in an insanity filled world. Your ability to keep your humanity in place when everything you stand for–truth, integrity and dignity– seems lost. The strength to still believe in the inherent goodness in the darkest part of man’s heart. To live with the knowledge that your good deeds was never really for man, but for your creator.
I have decided to walk down the path that has faith in people. That choses to believe that there are good people out there who may look healthy but are truly in need of help. I have chosen to give every man who asks for alms the benefit of doubt. I have chosen to be positive about humanity. Can you do the same?
It is said that beggars will never cease from our midst, so give anyway. You may end up meeting someone who really needs it; but if you don’t, you can trust karma to catch up with those who are dishonest and if you are lucky, God will let you watch. So give to all who are in need without reproach as far as is within your means, and remember that givers never lack.
I leave you with Mother Teresa’s Do It Anyway and hope it insipires you as much as it did me when I came upon it some 6(or was it 8) years ago;
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self centred. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others may destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give the best you have anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.