Sunday, March 09, 2008

Are We Not All Beggars?

I'm not quite sure I feel the need to explain, but I wanted to expound upon a comment I made on my last post. I mentioned something about beggars asking for money. This is a topic that I feel very strongly about. On one hand, I am a Christian, and I believe in being Christlike. I believe in helping those that ask for help, and in helping those who are less fortunate. But I do not think that giving money directly to beggars is the best course.
When we lived in China, we were constantly targeted by beggars because we were American, and they knew that Americans are more wealthy than the Chinese. There were times when I felt compelled to give money to those who asked, but there were many other times when I felt that by giving them money, I was part of the problem. I developed some very strong attitudes about my responsibilty to beggars at that time. Here are some thoughts I have about the subject:

1. I would rather give money to an organization that offers help to the homeless because then I know that my money isn't going to drugs or alcohol. I have a family member who has lived on the streets, and I know that no matter the excuses they give, most homeless are drug addicts and want the money for their habit. I recognize that they have other needs, but unfortunately, I can't guarantee that my money will go to feed or house them.

2. We have religious beliefs that teach us that we can't judge a person in that condition, and say that they brought this upon themselves. We are all beggars before God and rely on his mercy to bless us. We are taught that we should give to them that ask of us. But I don't think that supporting their drug habit was what the scripture writers had in mind.

3. I have spent money and time helping my own homeless family members, and have had them live in my home. I feel like I have a responsibilty to take care of my own before helping others. My funds are limited, I would rather help out my family members with the extra that I have. It is our responsibility as family members to take care of them.

4. Once when we lived in China, a mother and her three little children came begging to us. The children looked almost as if they were in tears with their faces all distraught. They came bowing and reaching out to us. I can't remember if we gave to them or not, but after we passed them, we spent some time looking at something not far away. I saw the children happily run back to their mother and play and laugh with each other. A few moments later, another American passed by, and the children once again began screwing up their faces as if they were in the greatest agony. They had been taught how to beg to get sympathy.

5. Once while in China, I saw an older man leading his blind son along. They were asking for money from everyone near them. I planned to pass by, but something in my gut told me I had to give to them. I'm not sure why, but I knew I needed to. I guess I tell this story to show that I still try to follow my instincts. While in general I would rather give my money to organizations who feed and help the homeless, I still feel that God can prompt me to give to individuals when I should.

I don't know the answer to this problem. I do know there are many who need help, and that I can't judge who needs the help most. But I also know that I have limited funds, and because I can't judge who will use those funds wisely, it is better for me to give to an organization who will provide food, instead of to an individual who might use those funds inappropriately.


JJJ said...

I tend not to give to street urchins, but I have and do to certain charities that can be proven legit.
My thought on the homeless,poor,beggers, what ever you want to call them is probably wrong, but I know there is alot of shelters,free kitchens, employement, training , and tons of other programs that they could get involved with "if they wanted" What upsets me the most is seeing the homeless Vets who did their part and should be offered some goverment assistence.

Now in other countries mostly 3rd world, thats an entirely diffrent situation. Although I am more likely to assist my own country over another. natural disaster relief is diffrent.

Lindsay-Weaver said...

I had an interesting experience one time. My husband had been given a $200 grocery gift card as a bonus for a store that he painted. He brought it home and shortly after, we had some people we knew have a baby. I knew they were having tough times, she just lost her job, he wasn't working as much as he usually did (winter, he's in construction). Anyway, I asked my husband if I could give them this $200 gift certificate for groceries. He told me that was fine with him if that's what I wanted to do with it. I went to their house and she was complaining about being broke, etc., but pretty soon started showing me her new digital camera, their new flat screen tv, etc. I left and never gave them the gift card. I figured that some people have to help themselves before I help them. *L*

Nene said...

Ever since you went to China and told us (then) about how you dealt with beggars, I have adopted your philosophy and I go by what I am prompted to do at the time. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.

Max said...

Hey D!

I must say that I agree with you on this one: money shouldn't be handed directly to beggars; cause it will only encourage them to continue begging.
Confucius said "give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day; teach him how to fish and he'll eat for ever"

1- I hear you on this one.

2- again, I totally understand where you are coming from...

3- Now that's what I spend time saying: we must help family first. Before helping strangers we should look around inside our own family and check if there is a member in need of help or not first. Then, we should move on to extra-family scenarios. If everybody did this there would be less poverty in the world.

4- Unfortunately we also have that kind of professional beggars here, in Portugal *nodding*...

5- you did well. One should always follow his instincts...

I don't know what the answer is either. All I can tell you is: follow your instinct and fo your part; God will understand :)!

Loved this post, dear :D!


Max said...

Hey D!

You have been tagged, my friend :)