Aug 4, 2008

The Least of These

(Toledo, España) I usually have something of a hard attitude toward street beggars, especially the assorted crackheads and con artists one encounters in American cities. In Europe, there certainly are similar panhandlers whose seeming health and robust nature makes it hard for me to feel empathy when they try to cadge some change.

And then there are the pitiful cases, like the toothless old woman who approached me in front of the Cathedral of Toledo. Sure, she might be a regular in the local business of tourist-fleecing, but it was difficult for me to simply walk by someone whose life seemed so far removed from the relative wealth I enjoy.

Or consider the woman with extreme achondroplasia who was begging in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid today, and who used some form of metallic prosthesis to get around. How can you ignore such people, especially in the presence of a towering church spire or when their physical abnormalities preclude gainful employment in the "normal" world?

Matthew 25:40 (King James Version) comes to mind:

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
A Euro here, a dollar there; perhaps all I do is assuage my conscience, but I could not live with myself if I ignored every "least of these my brethren" I encountered.


JSN said...

Did you check out the Money issue of Lapham's Quarterly? I recommend owning it.

There is a section on Chinese begging, and a guy from some time in the 1800s describing the varieties of beggars. Kinda interesting.

I'm really writing because, a couple years ago, you liked this post I did on Hayden and the 4th Amendment.

Since then, nobody has seemed very interested, or taken up the idea independently (as far as I can tell).

Ahh, well, if you could take a look again, maybe see if you see something wrong, I'd surely be obliged to you.

Jacob said...

That woman's been there for years and I've given her money many times. Though it is funnier when you see her plow through Zocodover at full speed with shopping bags in hand. Ah I'd still give her something next time anyway.