Conflicted, Once Again

Travel fills my heart

I love exploring newness

Until I see you

Sitting there with your palms out

Conflicted, I look away.

(I wrote this poem after seeing people begging in downtown Toronto and Ottawa this weekend. Some people give food. Some give money. Some even provide work. Some support organizations who work directly with those in need. But even when I have done some of those things, I don’t do them all the time for each and every person in need. I feel ashamed and guilty when I choose not to and ask myself why not this time? Conflicted, I whisper a soft sorry as I hurry to escape both my discomfort and their’s.)

I have pondered this for years. And I suppose, I will continue to do so. How do you respond to begging? 

19 comments

  1. galeriaredelius · May 21, 2015

    Oh, this one hurts… I sometimes gave in the past, but I’m afraid I nowadays always hurry away, “to escape both my discomfort and their’s” – you say it so well here. And your poem says it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lovetotrav · May 21, 2015

      It is a tough one isn’t it… no easy answer but some people have interesting solutions that work for them.

      Like

  2. This is a tough one. I like to give when I can. Yes, some may be scamming me, but if I can help one person who really needed it, I don’t care so much about the other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lovetotrav · May 15, 2015

      That is a really good point. I agree with you completely. I think I will adopt that from now on.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. joannesisco · May 15, 2015

    This is a complicated question because emotion is attached.

    The first time I ever encountered a panhandler was in Amsterdam when I was 18. I gave him money and my mother reprimanded me saying I was throwing my money away. Since then, I’ve felt guilty both if I do and if I don’t.
    Generally, I give when I feel some *connection*. I can’t say I understand this feeling of connection, but when I feel it, I respond to it … and I always try to acknowledge the person, even if I’m not giving anything. I don’t like the idea of pretending someone doesn’t exist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lovetotrav · May 15, 2015

      Yes, I understand the connection part. I think that is why I sometimes do and I sometimes don’t. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. it is complicated, I agree.

      Like

  4. emilia m. · May 15, 2015

    so many times (too many) I got fooled by the look, by the little baby they are holding… they turn around and do not buy bread… That was – granted – back home. But burned once – can’t. If I can – I give food. I donate to charities. I’m to scared to look and smile – got burned on that one too 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • lovetotrav · May 15, 2015

      Thanks for sharing. It is a hard one when I guess scams exist and like you say, you get burned. Giving to reputable charities is the way around that as you suggest.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Anabel Marsh · May 14, 2015

    I know the problem. I decided a long time ago not to give to individuals but to support a specific charity for the homeless. It means I don’t have to weigh up if someone is “genuine” or not. Other people I know make a point of giving small change to anyone who asks. Again, it avoids discriminating. I don’t know what’s right. I don’t feel particularly good about my policy. There probably is no satisfactory answer. But at least everyone on this page is looking for one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lovetotrav · May 14, 2015

      Thanks Anabel. It makes me feel less alone in my conflict. I have done the same as you but sometimes it is still so hard to face that person on the street and not help him or her individually. I am the same as you; maybe there is no satisfactory answer and I should just accept it.

      Like

      • Anabel Marsh · May 14, 2015

        Sometimes you just have to. Sad to say, with the government we’ve just elected it’s only going to get worse.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The Little Butch That Could (TLBTC) · May 14, 2015

    I lived in Chicago for ten years. I’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to begging. Women using infants in the middle of the winter to work on your emotions. Disabled panhandlers in wheelchairs getting busted by the police for selling drugs hidden in their seat cushions. Homeless people returning gift certificates handed to them by well intentional people from certain fast food joints because “Oh no, I don’t eat there!” I also lived for a time in a part of the city that was known to the homeless as a safe place to go. Why? Because they had access to things they needed, i.e. a soup kitchen on the corner, a food pantry in a local church, a salvation army store in which they could go through the donations people dropped off at the back of the store, etc. At no time while living in this neighborhood did I get asked for money. I did walk in on a woman changing her pants in the building’s entrance on my way to work one morning. She was obviously embarrassed and apologized profusely. The point is, if people have access to things they need they are less likely to panhandle. Did I give anything to those asking? Yes. There was a man on one of the bridges downtown and if I ate lunch around there, I would save half of it and give that portion to him on my way back to the office. I made sure he had everything needed: napkins, utensils, ketchup, etc. He never turned it down and always had a smile. The other man I only saw once but I gave him all the change I had on me because he made a sign that seemed more truthful than any others i’d seen. The sign said something about being homeless and wanting money for alcohol. Honesty goes a long way with me and I gave him what I had.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lovetotrav · May 14, 2015

      It is so much better as you describe, when people have the services for things they need such as food, clothing etc. I understand your point as well about the honesty. Maybe that holds me back sometimes as I wonder. I am sure that the man by the bridge missed you when you moved. That is a very kind gesture that would make a difference in his day. Thanks so much for sharing, I really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Paige Hamilton · May 14, 2015

    In my city, there aren’t a lot of homeless on the streets begging … but they are around us, generally at the corners of busy intersections with signs asking for food or money. As a rule, I don’t give money, mainly because I don’t want to support an addiction. However, my kids and I keep ziplock bags of items to give away … everything from sample sizes of hand sanitize and shampoo, to granola bars and beef jerky sticks. Sometimes we give away a few items in a baggie, other times we just give one thing. Sort of depends of what we have with us at the moment. I’ve even been known to drive home, grab items and return to see if the homeless person is still there. Our family also actively supports our local food bank, and we always are part of a local drive to collect socks and coats and blankets for the colder months. So I feel conflicted? Yes. Perhaps uncomfortable is a better word. But I am learning to see these individuals as people who desperately want to be noticed and loved … and I do what I can and try to involve my children and pray that if there is more I can do then my eyes would be opened to the opportunities around me.

    Good food for thought today, Cheryl.

    (PS: I once blogged about an encounter I had with a hungry, though not homeless, teen boy and how it changed me … http://talesfromthelaundryroom.com/2014/04/09/h-is-for/)

    Liked by 1 person

    • lovetotrav · May 14, 2015

      Thanks Paige for sharing such valuable info. I really like the baggie idea and think that is a great way to avoid the money/addiction issue. We do give to the food bank but that doesn’t seem to help my discomfort when I meet someone on the street. I will be sure to read your post. Have a great day and thanks so much for your comments!

      Like

  8. Ally Bean · May 14, 2015

    I’m as arbitrary as you are when it comes to people who are begging on the streets. I always wonder if it’s a con or for real. That being said, I make a point to look at them and acknowledge their existence, even if I’m saying “no.” I give money sometimes, if I don’t have to stop and dig through my purse– that is, I’m prepared with bills ahead of time. Love the card idea mentioned above.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lovetotrav · May 14, 2015

      Yes, almost when you are prepared, you are more likely to give. I find it very awkward to be going through my wallet. This took me off guard as it had been awhile since I had experienced begging and had nothing on me.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. A Journey With You · May 14, 2015

    When I lived in Los Angeles (where there are even more homeless than where I live now), I used to carry a small card that had all the services (free meals, showers, shelters, clothes, emergency, etc) listed on it. When people would ask me for money I would give them that card so I knew they could turn to many places for the help they needed. There are times in the city I live now that if someone asks me to buy them a meal, I do it. I am much more generous when someone is actually looking to eat rather than looking for money. My husband works at a soup kitchen every Friday feeding the homeless and we support their efforts financially too. I do something. Probably not enough, but I try to do something. I also try to look people in the eye and say hello. It isn’t much but it shows that I recognize their humanity. I am with you though, I feel conflicted on a regular basis.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lovetotrav · May 14, 2015

      Thanks for commenting. The card idea is a great one, especially if you live in the area. I agree about the generosity with food as opposed to money, knowing where it will go. I need to work on the “looking in the eye and saying hello” as that is important. Thanks and take care.

      Liked by 1 person

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