WHO IS MORE DESERVING OF OUR GENEROSITY?
There is something about beggars that gives them up for the experienced walking on the streets of Lagos. They stand or sit at an awkward place where you know someone who has any kind of serious business wouldn’t sit. The trick is to not have eye contact with them because once you do and they see any glint of compassion or calm on your face, then they approach you. ‘Sister, sister,’ depending on the language they speak, they then make their request.
Lagos beggars come in different forms and appearance.
There are those whom you know on appearance that they are beggars and there are those who dress well, come up with a story in impeccable English about how they lost their money, or forgot their change with the bus conductor and are now stranded.
There are those who carry children and hope that if you don’t pity them, you’ll at least pity their innocent child and give them money.
It was after a long day at work, I was exhausted but I remembered I didn’t have any more cash to embark on the next day’s journey, I walked to the ATM machine close to my street to withdraw. I can’t say if they were watching me all along or it was just a mere coincidence, but as I put the money in my bag, crossing the gutter in front of me to the side walk, two women approached me,
“We forgot our change with the bus conductor after we gave him N1000 note and now we are stranded”, they said to me in Yoruba.
I looked at the both of them, they were well dressed, it looked to me like they were just coming from a party and forgetting your balance with the bus conductor is a common occurrence in Lagos because the journeys are usually long and commuters are mostly tired and stressed and forgetfulness is a common symptom.
I obliged them after a few moments by giving them the spare change I had with me.
I had not gone farther than five steps when another man beckoned at me, after a doubtful contemplation, I obliged him.
“Do those women look like people who can’t afford their transport fare to you?” he asked. “They have evil plans with the money they are collecting, don’t do that again” he concluded as I went on my way angry that I had even considered those women in the first place.
Ever since, I have been less generous with my money. As I walk past beggars on a daily basis, I often wonder, how do we define a true beggar?
The person who wakes up every morning and has decided to take it as a duty and is not trying to hide it?
The ones who employ means to make you more sympathetic to their plight? The ones who come up with stories to justify their begging for that moment because they say they don’t usually do this?
Do they not deserve it because they come up with a fib since you are more likely to give to someone you consider not a beggar, just someone in a tight situation? I feel if they are desperate enough to get creative while begging then they are as deserving as the person in tattered and dirty clothes asking for money (maybe they even have a permanent office space where they resume daily).