Giving Alms to Beggars at Intersections

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Some of us complain about beggars all the time. What about living in a place like India where hordes of little children run up to you when you come out of a building and are clamoring around you in the street for a rupee or two? We don’t have India’s problem with beggars. Here the beggars can be givers themselves. It’s amazing what people will tell you when someone runs up to your car at an intersection when they don’t want to give. Yes, the beggar is a nuisance at intersections, but many of them ask to do your windows or try to sell you a bag of oranges of avocados. They will say beggars are choosy, or that someone should get rid of them. What’s up with the stinginess? Cape Town would not be the same without them. You have a job or a partner who brings home money from his job as an architect or a plumber and don’t have to worry as you will probably have a juicy steak with roast potatoes for supper.

Twenty rand is all it takes.

Buy yourself happiness for the day by giving a complete stranger begging for something a crisp twenty rand note and see what happens. He will bless you and your mother and your dead uncles up and down and you will feel really good. What is twenty rand to you? It is nothing, but to the beggar it might mean the difference between going to bed with an empty stomach and feeling good. Don’t say that he will spend it on liquor or drugs. Give it without restriction. You might even decide to make Friday or any other day your twenty rand day. Have loose change in the car; not five and two cents, but five rand coins.

Incident in Toronto in the 70s

I was living in Toronto in the 70s when I was accosted by an old woman in a ratty coat and big boots and a bag on her shoulder who asked for a quarter (twenty-five cents coin) and I stopped and I gave it to her. Every day this woman would wait for me at the door of the office building where I worked as a paralegal. One day it was snowing and I had to walk some distance to my car. When I got to the car it was under snow from the afternoon blitz. I saw the bag lady and saw her getting into a cab. I was astounded. I could not even afford to take a cab but she could. The following day when I left work, I saw her again loitering on the pavement. She asked me for money. I told her I did not have. She swore at me. I was very upset. I had given her money and this was how she treated me when I did not have. For years I did not give anything to beggars, and then I started again. I realized that when I did not give, I was using the bag lady as an excuse, and I changed my thinking. Even though she was rude she still needed money and if I gave it should be with a clean and generous heart. Why not make Friday your twenty rand day?

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