World: The Begging Conundrum

Street beggar comes to my window in India

Street beggar giving thanks in India

Beggars in Nepal, Haiti, Israel-Arab Quarter, Israel-Christian Quarter and India

Begging. It makes us nervous. We squirm. We try to look away. We attempt to ignore.

But many places I go in the world I can’t ignore those that are begging. My heart screams to help. My head, in frantic fits of logic tells me why helping is a bad idea.

While the poverty is real,  beggars in some countries beg as part of organized crime. Babies have been rented by beggars for better results. Children have been maimed to attract soft hearts.

Will my giving actually help (other than ease my conscience)? Will it reinforce a culture of dependency? Will it just reward criminal gangs that “own” the beggars?

I don’t have any hard and fast answers. I have given. I have ignored. I have laughed and played with children beggars without giving them anything. I have bought food for obviously hungry beggars. I have said NO when pushed by overly aggressive beggars that don’t sit right with me.

All I know for certain is, that in a few weeks, I will have the same battle of choices during my next assignment.

11 thoughts

  1. Thanks for this post Gary, I’m glad it’s not only me who feels uncomfortable whenever I come into contact with beggars. The development workers I travel with always warn me against giving to these people. They believe very strongly that giving money encourages them to accept their poverty as a natural state of life resulting in a reluctance to strive towards improving their own situation.

    Safe travels.

  2. Man, ive missed following your blog! I had a recent conversation about this with my husband outside of walmart. but yea,,,what do you do

  3. Amazing pictures, Gary. I really love them. Wish I could hire you for Africa! I’m sorry to ask this as it shows I haven’t kept up, but is this from a recent trip?

  4. Great post Gary. It is something people can think about whether they are overseas are dealing with pan handlers in their own community. I think that overseas often it is best if you get advice from a local whether it is your guide/interpreter or a friend. They usually have a better idea of whether the begging is because of need or a scam. It is hard because God calls us to be generous givers and to care for the poor, widows and orphans and face it the majority of the world is living way below the lifestyle the majority of us are used to.
    Continuing to pray for wisdom when it comes to dealing with these situations and seeking God’s guidance and the leading of those we know and trust is probably the best we can do. Randy

  5. Roger…sorry for the delay in responding. I was away from the internet. Thanks…and maybe you can hire me! I hope to go to Kenya soon on another trip. The top India photo is from a recent trip. The others were collected from various trips.

  6. Randy…sorry for the delay in responding. I was away from the internet. Thanks for your words of wisdom. Great thoughts.


  7. As always…moved by your pictures. The saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is so true.

    Like you, I struggle when confronted by beggars. I’ve done the same as you…given, and ignored. I ask God for wisdom in what to do in each situation.

    I’m starting to see a positive trend in missions and humanitarian work…and that’s businessmen starting businesses to give the underprivileged a chance to earn a living and improve their situation. Looks like I’ll be doing some part time social networking for one such organization called: Affirm Global.

  8. Great post, Gary. I, too, have given many times against my better judgement because it made my conscience feel better and assuaged my guilt at having so much. It is one of the most difficult things to know what to do. If only we could see people’s hearts like Jesus did and know the truth in each situation. Alas, we are human and will make mistakes in both directions. In many ways, Peter may have hit the nail on the head when he said, “Silver and gold, have I none, but such as I have, I give unto thee”…and then demonstrates his love and compassion by playing a role in the man’s healing. We can give what we do have that has been given to us freely, without price. Sadly, there have been too many times when I didn’t give even that.

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