Hands that give, also receive.  ~Ecuadorian proverb 

This is the season of the donation solicitation. Form letters in the mail are one thing; but it is always painful for me to pass human beings begging in the streets.

The first time I saw the “Will Work for Food” sign, I wept. But the panhandlers on the city streets always seem a little risky. There is so much at the root of the problem as well, and perhaps if I were actively working for social justice, I could pass these people by with a clear conscience.

Someone I was reading once (was it Natalie Goldberg?) said they vowed to give to anyone who asked for a year . It’s hard to know if such an intention is for the beggar or the giver.  I think it was a Jane Austen novel (I miss my memory!) in which a mother explains to her child that they give to the less fortunate in order to make themselves feel better, to alleviate the suffering of privilege.

What is the right response to the beggar? In a sane society, it would certainly be to give, but there’s always a question about how the money will be used. On the other hand, Aeschylus said, “It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted.”


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