Thursday, November 24, 2005

Social conscience of the Sucker

One of the most annoying things about being in Europe (which conversely is something I miss about Singapore) is the presence of beggars on the streets and in the markets.

Being a liberal bleeding heart, I cannot but help to give spare change to pregnant mothers, grubby children, gypsys and anyone else who gives me a stupid excuse and pleading look.

Fabien and I have had countless discussions on this point, with the conversation usually begining with the words "you are not helping them you know" YES i know they mostly don't need it/earn more than I do/use the money to buy drugs/alohol etc...

However, unlike him, I have not been hardened through travelling through India on less than 3 USD a day, besieged into numbness by suffering humanity.

So today, when I went to the market, and the usual pregnant woman comes to me asking for money (I must have the word "sucker" stamped on my head), I decided to try something equally compassionate but not involving a cash donation. I opened my shopping bag, and let her pick up from my own fruits and veggies whatever she wanted- she took some baby tomatoes, carrots, a banana and an apple.

It may have cost me more money than giving her the loose change in my wallet. But I felt generally better for it.

6 comments:

clara said...

I know how you feel - I always feel terrible if I don't give something when approached by such people.

I think that helps more than giving money. At least you know she really needed the food!!! If she didn't, she probably would have given you a disgusted look and buggered off when you didn't give her cash.

andrew said...

The poor either are poor because they got themselves into their mess, or because they were born into it. My sympathies for the latter, not the least for the former. That said, unlike my dear cousin, they don't have "Circle of Poverty" or "Scum of the Earth" stamped on their foreheads, so you can't tell.

I think your method's pretty good... =) I don't think your local drug dealer is willing to barter tomatoes for your drug of the day.

S* said...

The economist in me does realise that when I give food, I have freed up her other resources for drugs or whatever, but at least I feel better at not having DIRECTLY contributed to her drug purchase. Depending on how far back you go in counting indirect contributions, even my tax dollar goes to helping vagrants buy illegal drugs. So I still continue to pay taxes, and don't feel bad about giving food in lieu of cash...

Michael Low said...

I must say that's an ingenius one! My dilemma has always been telling those who really need it apart from those who are out for an easy buck. You seem to have reached the ideal solution. Bless you for having a compassionate heart!

ec said...

Nothing wrong with being compassionate. I give spare change and cash donations all the time, mostly to old people. I even support blind tissue sellers. Someone once told me that some of them are really not blind and that it is really a scam. I don't know for sure, but if two people ("blind" + minder) are desperate enough to go from table to table hawking tissue paper, I will buy their tissue. David scolds me all the time, says I am a sucker.

The other day, as I was driving home from work, I drove past an old lady who was pushing a trolley laden with cardboard. She looked like she was over eighty-five years old, stooped and weather-beaten. My heart just went out to her and I suddenly had this mad urge to stop the car and give her some money. But I didn't and for about half a minute felt really guilty about it, which is crazy. Maybe it's a reflection of my own fears of growing old and being alone in this world.

andrew said...

The economist, of course, is assuming that she *does* have some (limited?) money saved on food to spend on drugs. This assumption need not hold true.