This morning, on the way to work, a man suddenly boarded the already full jeepney I was riding. I was filled with some apprehension because, looking at his face, he appeared to fit my idea of someone who’s up to no good.
What he did was crouch at the entry of the jeep and distribute envelopes to all who were seated. The envelopes had a note at the back which said he was asking for donations in order to buy food. He was begging for mercy, “Nagmamakaawa po ako.”
I was disturbed. It has always been my strong conviction not to hand out money to beggars. It only encourages them to ply their so-called “trade” in the streets, endangering themselves, motorists and pedestrians. Teaching a man to fish to help him for a lifetime was better than giving a man a fish to help him for a day, was my belief.
However, wasn’t it better that the man was begging for alms rather than committing crimes to get money for food? This really tore me up inside. I was considering the idea of helping him by giving loose change to discourage the man to steal. Who knows, despair might drive him to it? I was filled with a sense of helplessness at being powerless to help him. What I really wanted was to find him a job in order to help himself.
Was I really powerless? No. it’s just that it wasn’t my priority to help someone I don’t know. It would involve a lot of time and effort on my part. All spare time I had is reserved for spending time taking care of my daughter, doing errands and squeezing a little alone time to unwind and reward myself. A part of me feels shame at my selfishness and unwillingness to give a little more of myself to help others.
In the end, only one woman out of about 14 of us in the jeep gave him money. The driver warned the man not to alight at undesignated unloading lanes, as it would earn a traffic violation. So the man gathered the empty envelopes he initially refused to take back when the passengers were returning it outright. He got off, leaving me with questions in my head, disturbed at the complexities and unfairness of life.