There is a sad, unfortunate, and all-too-common scenario that happens on the street corners of the majority of large cities across the world. The situation is familiar to us all because we each have faced it several times. And while the locations and people may be different, the circumstances are often similar. Usually the setting includes a man or woman who is extremely unkept, smells and looks as though they have not showered for weeks, is often sitting next to the entirety of what they own, and their eyes and hands are outstretched pleading for assistance.
But I have often wondered what is more unfortunate – the awful circumstance of the sad and desperate beggar, whose situation was brought on by poor choices or unavoidable life circumstances; or is it actually found in the judgmental, scared, or selfish throngs of people who carelessly pass by these beggars – who also are human beings?
The thoughts, intentions, or excuses that go through our minds during those sad, sometimes scary, and usually appalling moments when we are confronted by such a beggar often reveals much about our own character. Do we find ourselves using some of these excuses to justify our actions (or inactions): they brought this upon themselves, they’ll use my money for alcohol or drugs, why don’t they just get a job, someone else will help them, I don’t have any money on me, etc. Perhaps we feel scared, threatened, or have little children with us that we want to protect – and understandably so. Or, perhaps our heart aches for them, we empathize, we wish we could help but are not in a position ourselves to help, or we literally don’t have any money on us but would otherwise help them, etc.
Regardless of how we act or think in these situations, the reality is that we each could probably do a little more to help those who have a lot less. Thus, ask yourself: should I help the beggar? My hope is that your answer will be a resounding YES! Allow me to share with you 7 reasons why I feel that way, and perhaps even to give a few suggestions on how we can help those in need:
1) Decide Now: Make the decision right now that whenever you encounter such a situation, you will help. Help can be as simple as: buying a meal, giving a few dollars, or even simply talking to them. But decide now to do it!
2) Carry a Few Dollars with You Always: You may ‘decide now’ – but if you are not prepared or don’t have any money on you at that moment, it makes it kind of difficult to help. Thus, always keep a few dollars in a certain location in your wallet/purse to only use for these situations.
3) Buy Food Rather Than Give Money: Many people want and are willing to help, but don’t like just handing over money, which will then be used to purchase alcohol or drugs. Completely understandable. Thus, rather than choosing not to give, buy them a meal or take them to the thrift store and buy them a decent outfit to help with interviews. You know the saying … don’t just feed the man a fish, teach the man how to fish.
4) Talk to Them: Who ever said that ‘helping’ required monetary gifts? Remember that these are human beings too, and perhaps a simple friendly conversation to show you care and won’t judge them will be far more helpful, inspirational, and empowering than any amount of money. Of course be careful and use judgment doing so, but treat them with care and respect and you can be certain that the majority will show the same to you.
5) Don’t Judge – Just Help: Yes, the reality is that the majority of people in this unfortunate situation made poor choices which have resulted in their terrible circumstance. But how do you know that? And regardless of whether this is the case or not, can you not still help them? I, who has had an incredibly fortunate life, have been the benefactor of countless acts of kindness in my life, despite the fact that I probably have not been deserving of much of the goodness shown towards me.
6) Are You Not a Beggar: Far too often people wrongfully assume that the definition of a real ‘beggar’ is one who asks for food or money, and is often without nice clothing or a home, etc. To those who are religious or believers, how often have you fallen to your knees and ‘begged’ a loving Father for forgiveness or for an answer to a prayer? In this scenario we appreciate that a loving Father is no respecter of persons, hears and answers prayers, and grants us our desires despite our unworthiness. Should this not be a lesson for us on how we think of and treat these different kinds of ‘beggars’?
7) Express Gratitude: If not for anything else, give and help these people simply as a way to demonstrate how grateful you are for all that you have been fortunate enough to experience (or not experience), and for everything that has been given to you. Those who are fortunate should and must feel a desire and obligation to help those less fortunate.
Lastly, and most importantly, help the beggar to help yourself. It is not the money, the meal, the time, or the conversation that really matters – what matters most when all is said and done is developing character and charity within ourselves. Because we all are beggars in one way or another, helping a different kind of beggar is about developing the ability to think of and help others, learn not to judge, give of our abundance, and become completely unselfish. Therein lies the true test of life, the determinant that reveals true character, and the source of real joy.