Recently, I was at a take away cafe a buying a drink when I was witness to a very awkward exchange.
A lady walking by the cafe stopped to ask the young female customer, who had just placed her order, for spare change. The young woman apologetically replied saying she didn’t have any to spare.
I had just walked in and expected to be met with the same request. Instead the lady began at tirade of abuse at the young woman. It included words about, “she in her skinny jeans with her upper-class attitude, thinking she was better than anyone else.” The bitter words spewed forth for about three minutes. All the while, the young woman did her utmost to ignore the abuse.
All sorts of thoughts flew through my mind. I was uncomfortable. I was embarrassed for the young woman. I was a little shocked at the tirade. Also, thinking I might be next in the firing line, I asked myself what was I going to do? I checked my wallet.
Yes, I had spare change. However, I normally don’t give money to people who beg. I never know if they have a legitimate need and I’ve been “had” before. I suppose you could say they probably do have a need if they’ve been reduced to begging. Am I just perpetuating their neediness if I support their begging? And what will they spend the money on? Or should charity be unconditional? Somehow, I think it needs to be conditional if I am to be an astute steward of my money and other resources. So, isn’t there a better way to obtain financial assistance aside from begging? But I’ve never been down and out before. Maybe it’s not that easy. I really don’t know how “the system” works. I like to think I am concerned about social justice, but I’m not an activist. In reality, I am truly quite clueless and can only go with my gut.
As my thoughts swirled around, her verbal abuse continued in the background, and any sense of charity I had was being quickly whittled away.
This time I was on my own. However, the thought occurred to me; what would I do if my daughter had been there with me, as a co-witness? What would I have said, when she most definitely would have asked me, in front of the lady, what was happening? I want to teach her to be generous and charitable. But what’s the best way to teach and role model these and other related values?
So far, the main way I can think of doing so is by supporting legitimate organisations and causes like World Vision child sponsorship or the Christmas Wishing Trees, for example. I definitely don’t want her to learn that you can you get what you want by abusing or bullying people.
What would you have done? How would you teach the lesson?
I’m linking with Jess from Diary of a SAHM for IBOT.