They’ve commandeered many traffic intersections in South Africa, so they’re not hard to miss on one’s daily commute to almost anywhere. It’s also not hard to miss the derision they are greeted with by a fairly large number of motorists. They appear singly, or in pairs – usually a reasonably fit person accompanying someone less so, but in some cases seemingly less so.
I am however not concerned with those who feign a handicap to garner sympathy from the public; after all, dishonesty is either innate or a means to an end. And since I consider moral absolutes to be undesirable, I will refrain from passing judgement on the motives for begging. What I am concerned about though, is the seemingly uncaring, disdainful attitude of the public towards these unfortunate people.
The harsh realities of the global economic downturn has resulted in a vast number of people losing their means of income, and has driven many of them into the streets to beg. Desperation can force people into doing things they would not normally do, and resorting to crime is regrettably one of more unpleasant kinds. Those you see standing at these traffic intersections have made a choice – choosing to beg instead of resorting to some form of crime. It’s not an easy choice to make, and I’m not going to pretend that I know how it feels; but I do know that it cannot be pleasant standing for hours in the harsh South African sun, hoping that someone will take pity on you.
I know you may argue that those of us still fortunate enough to be able to drive past these beggars on a daily basis, should not have to feel grateful that they beg for money, instead of simply taking it from us. I’ve heard comments such as “go get a job like the rest of us,” from those still fortunate enough to have one. But is it as simple as that? I’ve also heard that beggars make a good living plying their trade. But how do you know this really? It’s just hearsay.
The thing is, you don’t have to feel grateful that beggars choose to rely on your generosity instead of relieving you of your cash by some other means; but it would be nice. Parting with a few coins won’t make you poor, and it won’t make the begging problem disappear. It’s actually not going to do much good. But you were not meant to solve all the social problems in the world, just not add to them. And being kind to your fellow-man is not that painful after all…