Beg Your Pardon

I need some serious input on a question that has often plagued me.

But first: Story time.

We went on an outing to Huanchaco, the fishing town near by.  It was a glorious day of sunshine and enjoying a good read by the ocean. When we were done at the beach we walked to an ice cream stand, a tradition when we venture to Huanchaco.  I love this ice cream stand because of its homemade ice cream and homemade cones.  Anyways, I got majar blanco & chocolate and my husband got coconut. We licked round the ice cream blob, insuring it wouldn’t melt down the sides on to our fingers.
A beggar approached us.   She held open a blue folder with a picture of a boy with cleft pallet.  She was dragging her four-year-old son along with her; he had no cleft pallet.  Who was the boy in the picture?  She kept asking for help.

Chase, my husband, had the money.  So I didn’t say anything and kept walking, thankful I didn’t have to make a decision.  I was avoiding, beggars approach us a lot here and I never know what to do.  Chase started to walk away when the lady grabbed his arm and asked if her son could have a “piece” of his ice cream cone.  Before Chase finished saying “yes” she grabbed the ice cream cone out of his hand, gave it to her son, and walked away leaving him dumbfounded.

We saw her walk to an outside table at a restaurant and continue begging.  She grabbed a man’s drink, which was full to the brim, and gulped it down to nothing in the matter of seconds.  She continued to ask other tables and passerby’s.   She seemed to have no shame present as she asked and took.  She had no sadness in her eyes, just desire and greed.  This look and feeling she gave confused me.  It made me have no sympathy.  It was like she expected to get what she wanted but did not have the desire to earn it justly.  And what was she teaching her four-year-old boy she was dragging around? 

I caught myself in these thoughts.  Who am I to judge?  I don’t know what her life is like.  I don’t know how she was raised or what her circumstances are.  I know my God is the only being who has the right to judge her.  My job is to help and aid.  To love, that is my job, my obligation.

So now comes the tricky part.  Define help.  Is helping reinforcing her actions of begging by giving her what she wants?  Do you give a beggar money?  Do you give them food?  How do you help?  I see this is very situational.  Have you had a situation like this?

I went into this situation not knowing what to do because I often question myself on the subject, ponder, leave it open, and have no answer.  If I had an answer maybe I could have been of more help.  Is there a concrete answer?

My husband’s reaction after I asked him about it; “How could I eat my ice cream cone after that knowing what I was going home to?”  My husband has a heart.  I love him. 

Be grateful for what you have.  Give what you have, whether it is material things, the talents you have, or emotional support by listening or being kind.  We all have something to give. 


tifsong said...

these really are quite difficult questions to answer. just because it totally is situational. but perhaps in a moment like that. i would have invited the lady, and the boy, to join me for lunch.

that way.
even if you don't know their situation. you're helping them by being a friend. perhaps they are just begging and you're reinforcing it. but at the same time. it doesn't ever hurt to buy them lunch. or a meal. or some bread.

i know from personal times.
i have an auntie who struggles with things and my mom, instead of giving her money, in which would be used for cigarrettes and probably sometimes alcohol. she'd buy her shampoo and conditioner, and groceries.

you know? there are ways to help, without reinforcing the problem.

that is my take?

lovely, you are.


trishie said...

Tricky question. i think it really depends on the situation. in the case of this woman i probably would feel no sympathy for, if she was just helping herself to other people's food and drinks. Just plain rude if you ask me.
I do give money to strangers on the streets, but not often...i worry they'll use the money to buy alcohol, drugs, smokes. i've seen it happen before, so i'm wary.

BethanySines photography said...

holy cow this is a weird situation!!! i'm totally stumped. I've always had thoughts and questions like this too...
I served a church mission in Los Angeles and we weren't even allowed to give anything to the homeless people because they would just turn around and sell it for money. At first I thought it was rude that we couldn't even share the things of God with them, but after being around some of them long enough i noticed that they had the same behavior as this gal you ran into. I'm still stumped....i haven't come to a conclusion. But i think you hit it right on when you said that God is the only person that can judge and all we can do is love. My personal opinion is that giving them money is destructive, but giving them food is always beneficial. Maybe this gal has some sort of mental disability? I'll keep her in my prayers.....maybe pray that some day a little social tact will find it's way to her. : ) just kidding..that was rude.

jess said...

whenever someone else does something that really throws me off, i keep telling myself 'i don't know them, i don't know their story and i don't know their hurt'

hope it helps :)

Vanessa said...

I struggle with people like that. I watched a show once where (I forget the show) but they dressed like a homeless person and spent like an hour or 2 out begging for money. They made an insane amount of money. More than they make in one day working their normal job. It just doesn't make sense to me. I think it is sad but I think they can attempt to get help by going to shelters instead of teaching their child it is okay to just take food from strangers. I don't know, it's a tough thing for me.

Aut said...

Interesting question. Difficult to answer, of course.

I've lived in Quito, Ecuador for more than two years and in the beginning tried to help more people than I maybe should have. I had a few bad experiences and know that some "beggars" took advantage of me--but, like you, shrugged my shoulders about it because I know that I probably have more than they do anyway.

I walk down the street now and find it easy, even natural, to ignore the indigenous people who beg for money. Sometimes I think it's because I've just grown cold, but other times I'm convinced that it's because I know my "help" isn't going to do much. Begging children here usually turn around and give their money to their mothers, who (if they don't spend it on something like drugs or alcohol) in turn give it to the "pimps" that give them the work of selling chicles in the street. The whole system is broken and it's something that has to begin with basic education, not with me giving out a dollar to everyone I meet.

I know that's often the idea that travelers use to justify not handing out help, and it may sound like an excuse, but in many cases it's true.

I wish I could say that I have the attitude you portray in the last paragraphs, but the truth is that I've snapped at beggars who called me "gringuita" and told them that I earn an Ecuadorian salary and am not richer and more generous than most just because I'm blonde.

I really hope you can maintain your attitude! Maybe I've let it get to me too much--but some days, it will happen to you. I think food is always a great way to help. Money is risky, because you never know what you're helping. But, then again, it's only a dollar to you.

The Davis Duo said...

We used to get this all the time in Brazil.
I felt very often that there were beggars who were begging due to mental illness vs lack of wealth.

I was once told you should carry coupons or free meal vouchers to give beggars.

SLC has a lot of them. I ignore them because all their stories are the same.

I once in brazil had a kid (young beggar?) latch on to my arm with his teeth wanting me to release my popsicle. At least Chase didn't get bit?


I know that giving to the homeless and the poor can be challenging in many ways. But to those of us who call ourselves Christians, we are expected to give...not just to polite people who make great conversation, smell nice and have manners. We are called to be generous regardless of the circumstances. Then if we are really struggling in our hearts we sort it out with God. However I'm concerned for that little boy. Say a prayer for him, that he will rise above what life has dealt him. Much Love.

Ellen M. Hill said...


I have been such a terrible blogger the past few days- I've been on SB with my girlfriends and we have some of the worst internet. Thank you so so much for adding me to your Happy 101 list! When I get back to the land of real internet, I'll pass it on!

Have a wonderful day,

its simple love said...

I am so happy that all of you responded! This gave me more insight to the matter. I didn't know if anyone would respond because it's so hard to answer. But I think it's such a common thing we have all had experience from it. And with experience comes life lessons. Thanks all.

Taj Acosta said...

These instances stump me as well on an overall basis. I believe that we are to be kind to the poor and that you never know who an angel is! So that being said, I usually just do the best that I can, whether that's giving an orange, a few quarters I have, or a little money. What they do with it is between them and God. I've done my part with a full heart and prayed that they will have hope above all things that people care about them. Sometimes, I just say, "sorry, but God bless you dear" and I always look them in the eye and smile. There is a lady who stands on the side of a freeway entrance ramp near me that I see everyday, I don't give to her, but I always pray for her and I think that by doing so I bless her more than my little dollar would. Your hubby has a big heart ;)xoxo

Matt said...

you always try to assume the best, but there are times where you have to second guess yourself. there's a lot of messed up people out there, but hard to judge when you don't know the whole story...

The Constant Complainer said...

That was a very interesting story. We've all been there - and you want to try to figure out more about the person begging. But sometimes it's just easier to smile, give them something and feel good about it.

But I prefer not to give them money. I'll often offer to buy and bring them something, to make sure they're not buying booze.

You and your husband have good hearts.

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