On Begging

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On a forum I frequent, I shared my honest views on how to handle poverty. My solution is rather simple. The government does nothing but protect the free market so that poor people can participate too. If the poor don’t have enough resources to provide their needs, they either work harder or beg or both,

Some people accuse me of being cruel and heartless for suggesting that people should beg when they need something they don’t have. I don’t understand why. Perhaps it is because they have turned away so many beggars that they think it is a fruitless pursuit. They think turning someone out to beg is a condemnation to death by poverty.

In my experience, begging works extraordinarily well. It is, in fact, the grease that keeps our economy running.

Let me share some examples of begging.

One day I was waiting in the parking lot of our church for my son to finish his scouting activity. A man walked up to me and asked for a dollar for the bus. I gave it to him. He rode the bus. To me, the dollar was meaningless. To him, it meant a ride. What was nice is he didn’t even have to walk up to an ATM. All he had to do was open his mouth. We both had a good feeling, and he shared with me some of his thoughts and experiences of the day.

Second experience. I sent my wife with one small child in tow to Korea to be with her mom. She really wanted to, and because of morning sickness, she felt like she would be better off in Korea where she was more familiar with the food. I told her, “As you get off the plane, and get your luggage, just grab a random guy and tell him to help you. Don’t ask, just tell him.” She was puzzled by this, but I put explained it this way. “Suppose I were in an airport, and there was a young mother with a toddler who was pregnant. All she needs to do is look at me and I will help her, and be happy to do so.” Korean men sometimes appear rough and insensitive in public, but I knew that you would have a hard time finding a man who wouldn’t help a young mother. I was right. She found someone who even carried her luggage all the way to the train.

I have had countless experiences in my life, both as a beggar and a giver. I know that it works. It works really well. In fact, I spend a great deal of time begging as part of my day-to-day job. I ask my co-workers for things. I also give them things when they beg. You’d think that in a startup maybe the CEO or something tells everyone what to do, but usually, we have no one in charge and we just find a need and take care of it. It’s much like the real world inside the walls of my company.

When I tried my own hand at starting a company, I was overwhelmed by the community of start up entrepreneurs. I commented once, “You guys are more charitable than the most religious people I know.” They responded, “We know it works. We help each other out. We care for each other. We survive. When one of us wins, we all win.”

Those of you who think telling poor people to beg for the things they need is inhumane need to look around you. That’s how industry works. That’s how companies work. That’s how families work. That’s how our entire society works. The richest men in the world beg. Begging is a valid way to fulfill your needs. We beg. We give. We help each other out. I can’t imagine living in a society where people didn’t beg.

Leaving a sick elderly person to beg for their health care is not inhumane. I recall the story in Acts of the lame old man in front of the temple. Every day, someone carried him to the temple to beg. Every day someone carried him back. Every moment of his life was sustained by people meeting his begging pleas. It was his final plea to Peter that finally cured him. It sounds like God wanted that man to beg. He wanted him to keep on begging until he had enough that he could stand on his own two feet. What’s noteworthy is once that man stood, he stood and defended Peter.

Compare what his life would be like if he foolishly and proudly tried to make do on his own. Would he have simply been one of the countless thousands that Peter walked by? Would he have even survived until that day when he met Peter in front of the temple?

If there were someone who didn’t have enough money for proper medical care, I would hope they beg. I would hope they beg for money, beg for alternatives. I’ve been to more than one fundraisers for people needing money for medicine or treatment. I’ll go to more. The louder they beg, the better chance they have of finding the person who has what they need.

Beggars are also some of the most charitable people I know. I know of a family who barely has enough money to pay their rent let alone buy food. They beg for food and our church gives it to them. But even though they have just enough to sustain themselves, they are sharing their food with their neighbors, who are in similar positions. I don’t live in apartments, but if I knew my neighbor was short on food, you’d bet I wouldn’t give it a second thought to open my pantry.

This isn’t to say that being poor is noble. It’s not. Being poor is horrible, and I hope that we will one day live in a world where poverty is as distant memory to us as hunger is to myself. (It’s been 3 generations since my family has seen real hunger.)

What is most ignoble is the demands. The demands that you help, whether you’d like to or not. The use of government to extract money for the poor, then cutting a large sum off the top and keeping only scraps for the poor. Then claiming moral superiority for your theft and mismanagement. This has got to stop. This is corruption, pure and simple, and like all forms of corruption, it spreads and sickens everything. This disease of government “charity” turns the poor into entitled brats. It turns the givers into Scrooge-like greedy wealth mongers. It drives a wedge between rich and poor. It is a horrible cancer that is tearing us up from the inside.

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