On almost every busy intersection in Johannesburg you’ll face a desperate person begging for small change.
You’ll see a blind person in tattered clothes being led by someone with a cup for cash, asking if you can spare any food or money.
Every time I stop at one of these intersections I’m faced with an ethical dilemma. I recently decided that I will no longer support begging.
This was a very tough decision because I’d like to think it’s in our good nature to want to help others in need. It’s difficult to say no to someone who is needy when just the fact that I’m sitting in a car means I’m worlds better off.
I haven’t decided this because I’m stingy or greedy, but rather because I have set my emotions aside and thought about this rationally (or so I’d like to think).
By giving someone my small change, I might be easing their current situation, but in the long run I’m fueling the fire. I’m supporting something that shouldn’t be encouraged: begging.
Begging is only done because it is profitable. Remove the reward and there is no point.
Yes, it is still better than stealing, but stealing at least entails less resignation. I’m not saying all beggars should rather be thieves, but I am saying I’d rather be a thief than a beggar.
Tonight at robot in Bloemfontein a boy of possibly thirteen asked me if I could give him some money for bread, I could even buy the bread for him if I didn’t think that’s what he wanted the money for. My heart shattered to pieces for that boy. I stuck to my guns and told him I don’t support begging, all the while thinking of how different his life would have been if he had been born with blue eyes and blond hair to a rich family in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg.
I don’t want to support begging because I don’t think it really makes a difference, but I would like to make a change somehow. Something has to give because this can’t continue.