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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 09-Dec-05


Friday 09-Dec-05


I walked past a guy begging today. It was a cold winter's day and he had no shoes on. He just sat there shivering uncontrollably. Feeling rather guilty at my relative comfort, I dug into my pocket. There before the grace of God go I, I thought.

A few yards further on, I heard another tinkle of coins into his cup. At that rate, I mused, he could be comfortably shod within the hour. My feelings towards him also shifted towards suspicion. Also admiration at finding an effective way of triggering the conscience of enough passers-by.

Begging is a time-honored profession, reaching back thousands of years. Whilst many are trapped in that demeaning state, there is also an elite who make a comfortable, or at least adequate, living by tugging at the heart-strings of the passing public.

A key trick, especially when there are many other beggars, is to find an angle that makes you stand out and tips the trigger of sympathy of more people in the great passing sea. Like movie-makers, professional beggars know that children and animals are good accoutrements. Disabilities also help, as do simple, but clearly-written messages about your plight. And a cup, or other container, so your donors don't have to touch your unwashed state.

Begging is a sad indictment of our imbalanced world, and I cannot blame anybody in that position for doing whatever it takes to increase their income. Even in a welfare state, it is a far better activity than some other pastimes that unemployed people could take.

Beggars remind us of our vulnerability and enable us to feel good about give a little back to those who need it more than us.

See also: here.

Your comments

There is a short essay on the quality of beggars you may be interested in looking up some time. it's from the mid 18th century by,,, well I would need to track his name down also. his thoughts and observations still apply though. his unique outcome is to much like yours,,, to give if for no other reason to the show. I like your site - just found it.

-- Gordon McG.

Amusing, which is how we like it, however the fact is that the majority of those folks sitting on the ground with a cup have mental and emotional difficulties that put them there. We would prefer to think that they are just lazy or have made a choice to pursue this "career." It isnt fun or a first choice to be dirty, hungry and cold. If every beggar was a college kid studying the techniques of human persuasion that would be a different story and I would not agonise so much about giving or not giving, but the fact is life has overwhelmed these people. That is easy to forget as we analyse life.

-- jane


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