Everyday the out stretched hands are there. In the medina, in front of the gate to my house and at every traffic intersection. Some are healthy, but have succumbed to unfortunate circumstances. For the others, their misfortune began at birth. And their days are spent on the street showcasing their ailments and deformities for pocket change. This is their occupation. Beggar.
In America there's almost nothing more shameful than being a beggar. Like in Morocco, some are healthy and have succumbed to unfortunate circumstances. But then there's the others. The ones who drink away the generosity of strangers or shoot it in their veins. Our distrust breeds contempt. But even scorned Americans have charities and programs. And we can be part of the solution after careful selection of our altruistic priorities. If we want to of course. All we have to do is write a check to express our beneficence. For a lot of us, it's that intangible.
It's emotionally overwhelming. And some days I feel very small and insignificant and want nothing more than to hole up in my house and not interface with the rest of the world. Then the doorbell and reality comes to call. A stranger is at my house asking me for money, food, water, shoes or whatever else. Neither my denial, nor my fervid want for things to be different, gives me reprieve. Just as it doesn't for the beggars.
Many expats have developed criterion for giving to help them mediate among the needs. Some give only to mothers with children. Others only to the disabled who can't work. Some refuse to give to mothers who beg with their children in traffic, thus putting them at risk. Others will turn away anyone who comes to the door of their home. I've never made my own rules for giving. I do what a lot of others do. I give to those I feel most compelled by in the moment. It's not fair, equitable or well thought out. And that's not American at all.
Last Friday I went to the medina. And as I was walking, I noticed a woman older than myself struggling to push the wheelchair of her handicapped teenage son up a steep incline. So I stopped to help them up. Her eyes were so appreciative and kind. When we finally reached the top out of breath, we said goodbye before parting ways. While doing my shopping, I couldn't stop thinking about what life is like for her and her son. And when I was done and came back around the same route, she was still there parked behind her sons wheelchair in the medina. She's a beggar. And it's here that she relies on the generosity of passersby. All day. Every day. So I emptied the money from my pocket into her hand. And once again felt completely helpless.
Begging the question, how do we solve the begging question?