Compassion in the age of begging

Compassion in the age of begging
Photo: PV Bella

"Overheard at Starbucks: Two guys who look about 18 talking:

1: Did the homeless guy say anything to you?

2: I think "morning." I just pretend I don't speak English.

3, that's me, bought the homeless guy a Venti coffee with cream and sugar. I already know how he likes it because I've asked him before.

May 1 and 2 never have to experience what 3 goes through." (Scott Kleinberg/Facebook)

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." (Mother Teresa)

Begging predates recorded history. Beggars have always been part of the human condition. It is more prevalent and visible in Chicago than ever. More people are on the street. The jobless, homeless, hungry, physically disabled, those who suffer from mental or life crisis issues and people with alcohol or substance abuse problems.

Some people beg to supplement their meager incomes; menial wages, S.S.I., or welfare and food stamps.

For whatever reason, people beg because they see no other way to survive. Begging for your needs is the lowest form of humiliation.


Photo: PV Bella

Compassion is defined as the emotion compelling people to respond to the suffering of others and motivates them to help.

Compassionate people do things for others who are less fortunate. These acts can be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

Compassion can be as little as buying a cup of coffee for a begging person on a cold winter day or bringing food or clothing to places where the homeless congregate.

some of the hungry or homeless have their children with them.

Some of the beggars have their children with them. These two children are doing homework. (PV Bella)

Walk down State Street or Michigan Avenue on any given day. You will see people begging. On some days they are about twenty feet apart.

On Michigan Avenue they may stretch for over a mile, from Madison Street to Oak Street. Some have children with them.

Begging on the DuSable Bridge. (PV Bella)

Begging on the DuSable Bridge. (PV Bella)


It is easy to walk by people begging for money or food. (PV Bella)

Through boom and bust, Chicago always had a begging problem in one form or another.

It appears society and government cannot solve extreme poverty, hunger, and other conditions that force people to beg.

All we, as individuals, can do is be compassionate.

It is easy to walk by and ignore people begging for money. It is easy to be blind to their existence.

It is easier to criticize or mock them with your friends, coworkers, families, or neighbors.

The hard thing is to recognize that little things mean a lot. A buck in a cup, some hot soup or coffee on a cold day, or a sandwich and bottle of water. Maybe just acknowledging their existence with a kind word and a smile.

The harder thing is to realize these are human beings. They are you and I.

Begging is a major nuisance. People do not want to see beggars on the streets of their neighborhoods. (PV Bella)

Begging is a major nuisance. People do not want to see beggars on the streets of their neighborhoods. (PV Bella)

Begging is a major nuisance to many. Businesses do not want people begging in or near their premises.

Residents do not want to walk through their neighborhoods, especially upscale neighborhoods, and see people begging.

People enjoying the parks do not want to see the homeless and beggars camping out.

City officials do not want the homeless begging in the tourist areas.

All the programs to help the homeless, hungry, and beggars are geared to make them disappear. Make them invisible. Out of sight. Out of mind.

As long as there are people poorer than poor, alcohol and substance abusers, people with mental problems, homelessness, or any of the other critical human problems, there will be begging.

"The poor will always be with us." The adage is as old as mankind.

More women are begging then ever before. (PV Bella)

More women are begging then ever before. (PV Bella)

We are living in the age of begging. Like other countries, begging is becoming the norm, the rule, not the exception.

More and more people take to the streets daily to beg. More women are begging than ever before.

The vast majority of beggars are non-aggressive and harmless. They really cause no problem except for optics.

Anyone of us could be put in their shoes. Anyone of us could have a breakdown, lose all or what little we have, and be forced to humiliate ourselves to survive.

It is easy to lack compassion. To be merciless and cruel. People mock or ridicule beggars, whose only crime is to have nothing. You hear them talking on the subway, on the streets, in coffee shops, or waiting in line to make purchases.

Many are young. That is the real pity. It means their parents were no better. They never taught their children to be compassionate. They taught indifference, apathy, and meanness.

We walk by beggars everyday. They belong to someone. They are sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, etc. They are people.

"But for the grace of God, there go I."

That beggar could be you one day.

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