Most of us live in countries where begging is a daily thing. You walk out your door and it confronts you. I have lived all of my adult life in countries where begging goes on in the streets: by children, handicapped people, crazy people, mothers, old people, and desperate fathers.
Where oh where is the answer to this complicated situation? I have developed a plan through the years.
1. Ask yourself: If I give to this person asking for help, is it going to help in the long run, or am I creating a savior situation?
I have done this and have seen others get into difficult situations by “helping” someone with a critical need. For example, once I gave money to a woman friend who came to my door with a very heart-wrenching story. She borrowed (even though I told her it was a gift) a small amount from me, but it was a huge amount to her. Later I found out that she had lied to me, and she was so ashamed and had no intention of paying me back, that I never saw her again. She avoided me like the plague. I lost my chance to be an influence in her life.
2. Giving creates jealousy.
It creates untold chaos among family and friends because they got so much from you, but brother so-and-so got nothing, etc, etc, etc.
3. Begging is often attached to the religious practices of the country.
I need to determine who and what I am supporting.
4. In most circumstances I have been in, the extended family is expected to help and support the needy family member.
I may see them as destitute, but in reality, there is a huge extended family behind them. If you give, it upsets the balance that is there – how the system works in their country and way.
5. Limit the gifts you bring back from your home country.
I have tried to avoid that at all cost. I admit, sometimes I have done that for a special friend. But I would rather not do it: jealousy, dependence, and “now you owe me.” I don’t like any of those options.
6. Make sure you can live with your giving.
I had a friend who put a water container in her yard for passing school children to have a drink when they were passing by. It turned into a nightmare. Children were hurling abuse when it was empty, complaining constantly.
Another friend gave to a needy lady outside her apartment. The next day, the same lady was waiting for her. It got so bad, she avoided going out. These little things can undo the best intentions and resolve! Believe me!!
7. Listen to your TCK and your trusted national friends who live in the country.
Several times my children have said to me, “MOM! Don’t give to them. They are using you.” I found that my children knew a lot more about the culture than I and had a very balanced view of what was acceptable.
We bought a goat for a church Christmas celebration once. I wasn’t willing to keep a bleating goat in my yard until the day of the celebration. A national friend suggested it would be best if we did keep it. I should have listened. He knew. That goat “ran away.”
Of course we want to give. In the next post, I will suggest some good ways in which you can be as generous as you desire.